The Australian War Memorial has commissioned a body of work by artist Megan Cope, making her the Memorial’s first female Aboriginal official war artist.
In 2017, Cope travelled to the Middle East accompanying various Defence units participating in Operation Accordion. Cope was initially sent to Qatar, before being attached to Australian Defence Force units in the Middle East. There she recorded and interpreted subjects concerning Australia’s contribution to the international effort in the Middle East region.
Cope is a Quandamooka woman (North Stradbroke Island) from south-east Queensland. Her site-specific sculptural installations, video work and paintings investigate issues relating to identity, the environment and mapping practices. Her work explores the myths and methods of colonisation.
Cope said the series of works she has produced for the memorial, titled Flight or fight, was primarily inspired by a 10-hour flight she took over the Middle East.
"That flight informed most of my research and exploration that has then informed the work that I’ve made ... I was very interested in the flight path that we took; it included elements of the Persian Gulf and the Euphrates," Cope said.
"All of the works that I’ve done have mapped those memories and critical things in the environment that our forces have done or are involved in on land or ground."
Cope’s work is held in public and private collections nationally and internationally. Most recently she was a finalist for the Redlands Konica Minolta Art Prize and also undertook a residency in Paris with the Australian Print Workshop for the project “French Connections”.
Her work has been on display in solo and group exhibitions, including ‘The National’ (2017) at the Art Gallery of NSW and ‘Defying Empire: 3rd National Indigenous Art Triennial’ (2017) at the National Gallery of Australia.
Cope’s commissioned works will be available for viewing by members of the public Monday through Friday, by organising a behind-the-scenes tour with the memorial’s art curators. Those interested are invited to email a viewing request to [email protected], giving at least two weeks’ notice where possible.
Flight or fight will be displayed in a group exhibition at the S.H. Ervin Gallery in 2021.