Royal email a fit­ting touch for ex­hi­bi­tion

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By KRIS DANDO

The email from Prince Philip’s of­fice last week was the ic­ing on the cake for Claire Clark.

The Ti­tahi Bay res­i­dent is the or­gan­iser of a stunning ex­hi­bi­tion that opened at the Welling­ton Cathe­dral of St Paul on April 17. It fea­tures nearly 100 works by New Zealand servicemen sta­tioned over­seas in World War I.

A few days af­ter open­ing night, as Clark was en­joy­ing some down­time, the email from Prince Philip, who is the Ad­mi­ral of the Fleet of the Royal New Zealand Navy, popped into her in­box.

‘‘I had been in touch with Prince Charles’ of­fice and Prince Philip’s, as I thought this ex­hi­bi­tion was some­thing that would in­ter­est them, and was so happy to get replies from both their of­fices,’’ she said.

‘‘I sent a link from the open­ing night, with pho­tos, to Prince Philip, and to get a let­ter of best wishes was truly, truly won­der­ful.’’

The idea for the ex­hi­bi­tion came to Clark when she was sketch­ing in Lon­don in 2013.

She saw the build-up to the World War I com­mem­o­ra­tions and won­dered how Wa­ter­colour New Zealand – of which she is vi­cepres­i­dent – could be in­volved.

‘‘ A lot of how it would take shape came to me on the flight home [to New Zealand]. We had an ex­hi­bi­tion for the Queen’s di­a­mond ju­bilee in 2012 and I re­mem­bered the amaz­ing at­mos­phere around that.’’

Grants to­talling $33,500 were re­ceived from Lot­ter­ies – nearly all of what Clark asked for.

Find­ing works by New Zealan­ders who had served in World War I proved eas­ier than she thought, mostly through word of mouth in the arts com­mu­nity.

Some in­cred­i­ble works have come to light, par­tic­u­larly rare wa­ter­colour paint­ings and pen and ink sketches by Lieu­tenant Es­mond Atkin­son and his brother, Lieu­tenant Hal Atkin­son, of the Royal Naval Vol­un­teer Re­serve, and Cor­po­ral Ernest Casey and Sap­per Syd­ney Higgs of the New Zealand Ex­pe­di­tionary Force.

The works by the Atkin­son broth­ers, in­clud­ing in­ter­na­tional fleets at berth in Scot­land and the Mediter­ranean, showed both skill and hu­mour, Clark said. Casey is her favourite, though. ‘‘He was a gifted artist and he had a pas­sion for mer­chant and naval ship­ping, so he ful­filled his dreams by go­ing to war on a ship.

‘‘He ex­pe­ri­enced the hor­rors in France in 1916-17, but died in New Zealand in 1918, dur­ing the in­fluenza epi­demic.

‘‘ There are no known pho­to­graphs of him and lit­tle is known of his fam­ily. I left an in­vi­ta­tion to the open­ing at St Paul’s on his grave in Karori Ceme­tery.’’

The Casey col­lec­tion of more than 20 works has been gifted by the own­ers to the Na­tional Mu­seum of the Royal New Zealand Navy in Devon­port. The Navy was very sup­port­ive as the ex­hi­bi­tion came to­gether, Clark said.

‘‘The out­comes in this whole process have been re­ward­ing.

‘‘There has been two years of de­cent slog and a few hic­cups along the way, but I’m so pleased with the way the ex­hi­bi­tion turned out. I was lucky in many in­stances, but had a great team that worked very hard.’’

Cardinal John Dew, mem­bers of the artists’ fam­i­lies, stu­dents from the artists’ Welling­ton col­leges and serv­ing naval per­son­nel turned up to the open­ing night.

The ex­hi­bi­tion closes on May 3, but a na­tional tour is in the works. Works by Wa­ter­colour New Zealand mem­bers are also dis­played and for sale.

Claire Clark with mem­bers of a Gurkha com­pany, in New Zealand for World War I com­mem­o­ra­tions, who at­tended the ex­hi­bi­tion’s open­ing. From left, ma­jor Mark Shields, war­rant of­fi­cer Lalit Gu­rung, Claire Clark, cap­tain James Har­ry­man, cor­po­ral So­jit Gauchan.

Naval ac­tion off Coronel, Chile, by cor­po­ral Ernest Casey.

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