Michael Keighery has created an intimate new touchpoint in his artistic career––a career which has seen him make a name for himself as an educator and policy maker as well as an internationally collected multi-media artist––with his latest exhibition and installation.
Dead Man’s Penny is at it’s forefront a commemoration of the artist’s great uncle, Frank Keighery, who lost his life in battle at Lone Pine in 1915. More widely, it is a humanised tribute to Australians who lost their lives in foreign wars. The Keigherys were one of 1.35 million families to receive Memorial Plaques presented to all families of British soldiers who died during WW1, these ironically became known as “the dead man’s penny”.
The ominous centre piece of the exhibition is an installation of 8,709 hand squeezed and moulded knuckles of clay. Appearing bony and vertebrate-like, these carefully aligned nuggets of clay represent the number of Australian soldiers killed at the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915.
Carrying ongoing feelings of grief and frustration around the campaign, Keighery’s installation is a silencing and throughly modern visual representation of a loss that has been forgotten, re-thought, and re-represented to the present day (and indeed, of the toll of war in general). A more thoroughly explored tribute than the original “dead man’s penny’s” presented to the families that suffered loss at the hands of war.
The main installation is accompanied by translations from Frank Keighery’s diary, taken from his body at Gallipoli and painstakingly interpreted from Pitman Shorthand and slang from an era long gone. (AM)
Until Dec 20 (Wed-Fri 10:30-4:30pm, Sat 10-6pm, Sun 11-4pm). Janet Clayton Gallery, 406 Oxford Street, Paddington. Free. Tickets & info: janetclaytongallery.com.au