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Published 05 November 2018

Portraits of men and women who have shown bravery and dedication in times of war and conflict will go on display to mark the end of the First World War.

Soldiers is a major exhibition of new portraits painted by acclaimed local artist Tom McKendrick that sees each artwork displayed alongside the sitter’s own story, adding an extra dimension to the exhibition. The portraits will be displayed at Clydebank Town Hall from Tuesday, 6 November to mark the centenary of the First World War.

The paintings will hang in the town hall as a testimony to serving personnel and to remember the casualties of the Great War, which claimed the lives of more than nine million soldiers and seven million civilians.

Visitors to the exhibition will have the opportunity to view a wide range of portraits, including men and women across a spectrum of ages and backgrounds. Among them is 100 year old Dunkirk veteran, Jimmy Gillies, and 13 year old sea cadet, Joanne Durnan, whose ambition is to join the Royal Navy.

 

Visitors will also see compositions of Major Jon Stubblefield and Corporal James F Smith. Major Stubblefield sits with the American flag draped over his arm, the dramatic red and white stripes creating a focal point that emphasises his patriotism. Nearby, the portrait of Corporal Smith is a striking image of pride, determination and dignity. By their absence, Corporal Smith’s missing limbs make direct acknowledgement of the personal impact of war.  

Artist Tom McKendrick said: “I began this project in 2012 and the works on display represent six years of work. Throughout the process I heard so many inspiring stories of acts of bravery, as well as the very human side of how serving men and women continue to overcome the mental and physical horrors of war that they carry with them. It was a humbling experience to paint these brave individuals, including some who lost limbs in conflict, and for them to share so much with me. Although it’s unusual for dogs and children to appear in military portraits, I was pleased to include dog-handler Corporal Mick McConnell with his two dogs and Sub-Lieutenant Michelle Ping with her daughter, Ellena Rae. Corporal McConnell lost his leg when an Improvised Explosive Device (IE) exploded under him that his dog Memphis unfortunately hadn’t detected.”

He added: “All of these different stories are of survivors, but they represent millions of untold stories from the First World War to the present day. The men and women who look out at us are dignified, determined and stoical. They bear witness to many of the horrors of war but they take pride in having done their duty serving their country.”

The portrait of Sub-Lieutenant Ping holding her child is one of the most poignant in the exhibition, contrasting and yet unifying the opposing roles of mother and serving soldier. As she tenderly holds her child, Sub-Lieutenant Ping is the only sitter who is captured smiling. In this posture, her relaxed, natural pose suggests nothing of her outstanding service as a paramedic in Afghanistan, where she saved the life of a gravely injured sniper.

Bailie Denis Agnew, Convener of Culture stated:  “It is important to commemorate the end of the First World War and also to remember the millions of people who lost their lives during that horrific conflict.  It is a privilege for the Council to host this exhibition and to know the personal stories behind each sitter.”

He continued:  “It is incumbent upon us to mark this historical date and I believe Tom McKendrick’s Soldiers exhibition states in a visceral way that lessons were never learned following the Armistice.”

Visitors can see the Soldiers by Tom McKendrick exhibition at Clydebank Museum and Art Gallery, Clydebank Town Hall, from Tuesday, 6 November until Saturday 12th January, Tuesday to Saturday 10am – 4.30pm. Admission is free.