Gaiana – Earth NZAC – Martin Whitworth
Seventy years ago troops from New Zealand’s 9th Brigade, comprising the former 27 (machine gun) Battalion and the 4 Parachute Division, were pushing up through Italy north of the Fienza line in north-east Italy. Under heavy attack and the “artificial moonlight” of searchlights they crossed the Senio, the Santerno, the Sillaro rivers. Finally, on 17 April 1945, they negotiated the Gaiana Canal. It was during this crossing that 23-year-old Ted Whitworth was wounded.
Seventy years later Ted’s son, Christchurch artist Marin Whitworth, evokes the imagery and symbolism of that crossing in Gaiana – Earth NZAC, a compelling series of paintings capturing the lonely march of troops across foreign lands and the insignia and branding that now define a generation of war-time men. In these works the human body is placed within a context defined by graphic elements (the typography of wartime paraphernalia, the documentation of location, the emblems of militancy) and a landscape reduced to flat zones of colour. Within these formal elements the human figures – the marching soldier, the fallen opponent – appear fragile, ghostly traces within the visual articulation of war and history.
Martin Whitworth is a draughtsman, colourist, skilled craftsman and accomplished artist. Since graduating from the University of Canterbury’s School of Fine Arts in 1983 he has worked in paint, pencil and collage to construct intimate, often veiled visual narratives of human experience and relationships. His work is held in public and private collections in
New Zealand, Australia, USA, and the UK.