|Dead Man's Penny exhibits, Michael Keighery. From ABC RN website|
The exhibition is called Michael Keighery: Dead Man's Penny: Commemorating the death of Frank Keighery on Lone Pine in 1915.
The exhibition will be held at the Janet Clayton Gallery in Paddington, Sydney between 26 November to 20 December 2015. Opening hours 10:30am to 4:30pm Wednesday to Friday, 10:00am to 6:00pm Saturday, 11:00am-4:00pm Sunday.
For more information on the artist and the exhibition, including articles and a video, click here.
The Dead Man's Penny - the Memorial Scroll
The so-called Dead Man's Penny was actually a memorial plaque presented to the surviving family of soldiers who had died in the First World War.
The following information is from the National Museum of Australia:
"The Dead Man’s Penny is a commemorative medallion which was presented to the next-of-kin of the men and women who died during World War One. The bronze medallion features an image of Lady Britannia surrounded by two dolphins (representing Britain’s sea power) and a lion (representing Britain) standing over a defeated eagle (symbolising Germany). Around the outer edge of the medallion are the words ‘He died for freedom and honour’. Next to Lady Britannia is the deceased solider’s name, with no rank provided to show equality in their sacrifice. The Dead Man’s Penny was accompanied by a letter from King George V, stating ‘I join with my grateful people in sending you this memorial of a brave life given for others in the Great War’."
The following information is from the AWM:
"The shape and appearance of the plaque earned it nicknames such as the "Dead Man's Penny", the "Death Penny", and the "Widow's Penny"The round bronze Memorial Plaque is 120mm in diameter. It shows Britannia and a lion on the front and bears the inscription: "He died for freedom and honour". The full name of the dead soldier is engraved on the right hand side of the plaque. No rank, unit or decorations are shown, befitting the equality of the sacrifice made by all casualties.
Families also received a Memorial Scroll was presented to the next of kin of those soldiers, sailors, and nurses who died while serving in the Australian Imperial Force or Royal Australian Navy during the First World War. Later they were presented with a Next of Kin Memorial Plaque. The Memorial Scroll bears the Royal Coat of Arms and a message paying tribute to the soldiers who gave up "their own lives that others might live in freedom".
Dead Man's Penny Exhibition - The ABC RN Interview
The following is reproduced from the ABC RN website:
Gallipoli was evacuated in December 1915 and many families across Australia were grieving the loss of their sons on the battlefields of the Gallipoli peninsular.
Rather than Christmas letters or presents from their soldier sons, they received a medallion sent to all British Empire soldiers killed in action – the so called “Dead Man’s Penny”
The Keighery family received one of the medals, as one those killed was private Frank Keighery, shot dead aged just 21 at Lone Pine while he was writing a letter home to his mother and father.
Artist Michael Keighery began a quest to find out more about the elusive past of his uncle. This inspired his exhibition of ceramics called “Dead Man’s Penny”.
To listen to the interview, click here.
Canberra Times Report on the Exhibition during its installation at the Watson Arts Centre - September 15, 2015
|The memorial plaque sent to soldiers' next of kin quickly became known as the Dead Man's Penny. Canberra Times. Photo: Ron Cerabona.|
Michael Keighery commemorates his great-uncle in ceramic artillery castings in Dead Man's Penny at Watson Arts Centre."
|Michael Keighery commemorates his great-uncle in ceramic artillery castings in Dead Man's Penny at Watson Arts Centre. Canberra Times|
The soldier's name was engraved on the medal, but listed without his rank, because it was considered that all combatants were equal in this sacrificial death. Six hundred of these medals were sent to the next of kin of women who also died in this conflict.
Michael Keighery has commemorated his great-uncle in this exhibition with work that includes a series of ceramic plaques, cylindrical vases and a wall installation."
|Small, white ceramic pieces of clay moulded from human knuckles on two walls of the gallery represent the 8709 Australian soldiers killed at Gallipoli. Canberra Times|
Frank was a reporter and printer from Lang Lang, a small Victorian town in South Gippsland. The diary, written in Pitman shorthand and full of the slang and colloquialisms of the day is slowly being translated. One of his poems available to read in the exhibition was written in the heat and dust of Egypt while waiting embarkation to Gallipoli. In this poem he poignantly remembers the smell of the wet peppermint gums and South Gippsland scrub – a smell he was never to experience again.
The series of cylindrical forms by the artist is a reference to the two brass vases in the exhibition made by soldiers from the castings of brass artillery shells. This art, arising from the detritus of modern warfare, is sometimes referred to as trench art. The two ornamental vases are incised with graceful sprigs of flowers, perhaps in an unconscious attempt to domesticate these feared objects of destruction.
Keighery has incised, painted or printed his vase forms with poppies and native Australian flowers, as well as prints of his great-uncle's portrait. The spiky lengths of barbed wire that appear on some of these vessels and their blood-red interiors are a stark and dramatic intrusion in what is otherwise a sombre and reflective exhibition. The ceramic plaques impregnated with wartime memorabilia evoke the portraits of dead soldiers with their medals that hung in many Australian homes.
However, the most significant aspect of the exhibition is the installation of ranks of small, white ceramic pieces on two walls of the gallery. There are 8709 of these squeezed and fired pieces of clay moulded from human knuckles. They represent the official number of Australian soldiers killed at Gallipoli. The artist has made the end of each uniformed row irregular to symbolise the unknown soldiers who were not included in the official war dead lists, but died after the war of war-related trauma and injuries.
The wall installation is impressive in its visual and symbolic impact. Every twisted piece of clay represents an individual. The work questions our inability to comprehend the sheer numbers of the casualties. The enormity of death on this scale seems to blur our senses, until we come face to face with an individual such as Frank. What we respond to is the human face of this vast tragedy.
Keighery has successfully brought together these two aspects of the Gallipoli campaign by interweaving the terrible loss of human life to the nation and the private loss by a family. Through our insight into Frank's story, we can comprehend the tragic end to the lives of so many Australians like him – young men and women who never survived to smell the wet peppermint gums again and see the families that loved them."
Reproduced from The Canberra Times - http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/canberra-life/art-review-dead-mans-penny-commemorates-national-and-private-loss-20150913-gjlrd7.html
Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee