Artwork Detail

Paramount Award, Wallace Art Awards 1992.

With faces obscured, blurred or entirely out of frame, these are
ghostly figures, spectral traces that nonetheless arise from a definite
historical moment. Braunias tells us that his subjects in Roll Call are
war brides, those women, generally from Europe and the United
Kingdom, who married New Zealand soldiers during World War II,
and who were often shipped en masse to New Zealand to reacquaint
themselves with their new husbands in an unfamiliar country. Braunias
found his subject in a moment of personal reorientation, having
returned to New Zealand after being away in Europe for a year, when
he discovered a personal connection to the war brides’ story: ‘I was
looking through my recently deceased mother’s photo albums when
I was struck by a number of images of her at her sister’s wedding to
a just-enlisted New Zealand soldier in World War II. The metaphors
of war brides, war, death, and New Zealand’s involvement in the
wars on European soil were the starting point for a series of works of
which my winning painting Roll Call was a part.’ All these connections
helped the artist to fit his current work at the time within broader
cultural themes of regional identity.

It is intriguing that Braunias found these confluences of subject and
theme extremely amenable to the stylistic methods that he had
already been working with for several years. In Roll Call we see
devices such as the use of a grid pattern, obscured facial features,
and scattered captioning, all of which Braunias was using prior to
completing this painting, and which, to a greater or lesser degree, he
has continued to employ in subsequent works. Particularly poignant
in Roll Call is the ordering of the spectral figures within a monumental
framework, a tablature which becomes more than the randomness
of the collected figures, and yet avoids the officialising bathos of a
memorial day recitation. Nevertheless the memorial theme persists in
the work, and gains more power as an invocation of those wartime
conveniences of translocated strangers, which haunt their inheritors
through scattered documents of family history.

Catalogue text:
Published on the occasion of the Twenty Wallace Art Awards Paramount Winners Exhibition,14 February to 22 April 2012 at The Pah Homestead, TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre and 2 August to 30 September 2012 at the Wallace Gallery Morrinsville.
Oil, wax, enamel on canvas
Signed and dated
Accession number

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