Oil on 9 birch panels

92 x 92cm

Our deepest instinct is to breathe. We do it about 15,000 times a day. In and out. Without it there is no life for us.

Protecting that breath in times of conflict spawned strange apparatus; masks that morphed humans – both soldiers and civilians – into alien-like creatures with the common cause of survival.

The gas mask was patented in 1914 and over a century later, in this recent summer of fire and smoke, protective breathing masks were once again in use. My personal experience of these fires and the mask I needed to wear for smoke protection made me think about this connection between past and present.

Whilst the enemy and the army are different, the RFS – who bravely fought these fires over many months – have epitomised some of the strongest qualities of the original ANZACs. We owe them a great debt of thanks.