Artist sees through Iraq deployment

Imagery is so much part of one officer’s life that when the X-rays of his ‘day job’ get put to bed, the brush and paints of his passion come out to play.

CAPTION: Australian Army radiologist Captain Julian Thompson was a professional artist before joining the military and now takes inspiration from his environment while deployed at the Taji Military Complex, Iraq. Photo by US Army Specialist Caroline Schofer. Story by Captain Roger Brennan.

Captain Julian Thompson is deployed to Iraq to operate the X-ray capability for Coalition forces at the Taji Medical Treatment Facility, but once his scrubs come off, the former professional artist takes to painting ‘deployment life’.

The Army radiographer is deployed with the combined Australian and New Zealand Task Group Taji-10 at the Taji Military Complex.

This is his second deployment to Iraq, after touring with TG Taji-4.

“I spent 10 years as a professional artist before joining the military,” Captain Thompson said.

“I am an abstract and landscape painter, but the military can provide particularly compelling imagery, which is profoundly symbolic and very exciting to paint.”

Captain Thompson also has a Masters Degree in geography, which he finds enables him to fuse science and nature in his works.

“Shortly after entering service I realised soldiers were clothed in the landscape and the idea that we become part of it became intellectually interesting and a recurring theme in my work,” he said.

“Lines of soldiers walking into the environment has become a go-to image of mine but I’ve also painted a performance of the New Zealand haka, which greeted the Australian Chief of Defence Force while I was deployed with Task Group Taji-4.

“I’m now painting a three-piece canvass detailing the Taji environment and the history forged between Australian and New Zealand Defence Force members here.”

Captain Thompson takes pride in having direct contact with his viewing audience when he paints.

“There is a lot of incidental contact with the audience and they are able to relate in a very immediate way,” he said.

He also feels responsible to detail what he sees.

“While I’m not acting in an official war artist’s capacity, I am in a privileged position in that I’ve had a career as a civilian artist and I’m a serving member,” he said.

“It’s important to create artworks that reflect our deployments.

“They’re historical events and I feel an obligation to respond artistically to what I see.”

Captain Thompson will be showing his work at the New Zealand National Army Museum in August 2020.

He also displays works at the Australian War Memorial.










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Posted by Brian Hartigan

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