Artist shows hidden wounds of war

Senior posters first place

Anggun Rabu of Abbotsford, B,C., won the senior colour poster contest with her portrait of the inner wounds of some veterans.

 

The winning senior black and white poster was drawn by Shaelyn Lorensen of Abbotsford, B.C.
Valentina Donato of Greely, Ont., placed second in the senior black and white poster contest with her portrait of youth and age.

Intermediate posters first place

First place in the intermediate poster contests went to Louise McCrow of Campbellford, Ont., for colour and Anna Mikhailov of Ottawa for black and white.

 

Junior posters first place

Seowoo (Alice) Jeon of North Vancouver, B.C., won the junior colour poster contest while Dawn Wang of Richmond Hill, Ont., won the junior black and white poster contest.

 

Primary posters first place

Maximilian Lee of Calgary won the primary colour poster contest while Peiru (Brian) Chen of Surrey, B.C., won the black and white poster contest.

Sixteen-year-old Anggun Rabu noticed something when she began looking into commemorative poster art related to Canadian veterans: the wounded they depicted were most often the victims of physical injuries.

Rabu, a Grade 12 student from Abbotsford, B.C., who’s been painting since she was nine, decided to make a poster on the theme of mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The compelling result of her efforts, a disjointed portrait of a navy veteran and his memories, won first place in the senior colour category of the National Poster and Literary Contests of the Legion National Foundation.

“Not all war wounds are visible,” declares the piece, which its creator says aims to cast a light on an oft-hidden and misunderstood affliction.

“I noticed that most of the previous posters were mainly about the physical pain that the soldiers have gone through,” said Rabu, a first-time contest entrant who was encouraged to submit a piece by her art teacher.

“I wanted to make something more on mental illness, like PTSD. It’s about the mental scars and the fact that they stay with them the rest of their lives. That’s what I wanted to portray and to raise awareness that way.”

Her piece features a navy veteran—an element of the military she says is under-represented in commemorative art—his wrinkles accentuated by sandbags interspersed with scenes from a past war along with soldiers’ identification tags, a nod to those who didn’t come home.

“That’s a pretty complicated piece of work,” said Canvet Publications Ltd. general manager Jennifer Morse, a contest judge and an artist in her own right. “The idea of the war and the shredding of the face makes a pretty sophisticated poster.

“They’re all beautiful works and the time and the size are really remarkable.”

The aim of the competition is simple: fostering remembrance among Canadians.

Upwards of 100,000 children and youth have entered the various levels of the annual Poster and Literary Contests over each year for at least the past 40 years—millions, in total. The aim of the competition is simple: fostering remembrance among Canadians.

It is an effective tool that fosters not only remembrance, but inspires artists.

“You can tell by some of these works that these kids are creative and will most likely be spending their lives in the arts in one way or another,” said Morse. “And I think when you’re that kind of personality or person, you have an openness or a sensitivity that this experience would resonate with immediately and permanently.

“When you think about this and the fact that millions of children have been touched by this contest over decades, it’s got to perpetuate remembrance and it’s got to leave a permanent sense of responsibility and debt to those who have died, or been wounded, or who have gone to war.”

The variety of work through the senior, intermediate, junior and primary categories is impressive and admirably avoids hackneyed themes and representations.

In his senior winning essay, Ryan McCardle of Mount Stewart, P.E.I., reflects on his first Remembrance Day, at age 10—fighting the bitter cold and resenting this expedition on which his mother has insisted he accompany her, until some words from the dais resonate “just as a club strikes a ball.”

“My greatest fear is that young people are starting to not remember,” said the speaker, a man in a long, black coat. “They aren’t realizing the sacrifice people before them made. They can’t comprehend what their lives would be like, had our Canadian soldiers not gone and fought for our freedom.”

The statement, McCardle writes, “is truly going to settle with me.

“All my life I have gone to these Remembrance Day ceremonies, repeating to myself ‘Lest we forget’ and ‘We will always remember them.’ Now, I’m questioning whether or not me and my peers will truly remember.

“Many of my classmates stayed home today, enjoying the day off of school. They weren’t thinking about the ultimate sacrifice millions of soldiers paid, or the terrors they endured. All I can do is hope. Hope that they, too, will never forget.”

The contests have made a deep and lasting impression on Valentina Donato, 17, of Greely, Ont., who capped seven years of celebrated local and provincial entries with a second-place finish in the national senior black and white poster category.

For the aspiring artist, the national recognition for her charcoal drawing of a beautifully wizened old veteran of the Second World War’s Netherlands campaign face-to-face with his younger self was as good as a win. “It’s amazing,” she said.

Donato, headed to the University of Ottawa’s fine-arts program this fall, says she finds charcoal a particularly effective medium for the subject at hand.

“I’ve done other art, too, like painting and stuff but…charcoal is something I really enjoy doing,” she said. “I find I can create a lot of emotion in my artwork with it. I really like the contrast and creating the darks and the lights to have that emotion that you get when you look at things.”

She first heard about the contests in elementary school and soon became immersed in the history of Canadians at war. The knowledge she’s acquired over the years feeds her work and adds depth and lends credence to the pieces.

“I would never have gotten this interested in history and our past if I didn’t first learn of the [contest] in Grade 6. I always looked forward to the next year, so that I could learn more and find out what else I can show in my art.”

The contests for colour and black and white posters, poetry and essays are open to all students in the Canadian school system. Initial judging takes place at the community level by volunteers at local Legion branches and winning entries progress to provincial judging.

Winners are forwarded to Ottawa where national winners are declared. Their work is published in a booklet and the senior winners are displayed at the Canadian War Museum for a year. Second-place and honourable mentions are shown in the foyer of the Parliament Buildings during the annual remembrance period in November.

The senior literary winners are also displayed at the war museum. All four senior winners receive a Legion-sponsored trip to Ottawa, where they meet the Governor General and place a wreath at the National War Memorial on behalf of the Youth of Canada during the Remembrance Day ceremony.


2020 Results

Senior

Colour poster—Anggun Rabu, Abbotsford, B.C.; Second: Ariella Amancio, Newmarket, Ont.; Honourable mention: Tori Rarog, East St. Paul, Man.

Black and white poster—Shaelyn Lorensen, Abbotsford, B.C.; Second: Valentina Donato, Greely, Ont.; Honourable mention: Annie Chen, Calgary.

Poetry—Anna Smith, Geary, N.B.; Second: Roman Javorek, Kentville, N.S.; Honourable mention: Emma Dupuis, Mattawa, Ont.

Essay—Ryan McCardle, Mount Stewart, P.E.I.; Second: Jacob Perrault, Baie Comeau, Que.; Linayah Hall, Kenora, Ont.

Intermediate

Colour poster—Louise McCrow, Campbellford, Ont.; Second: Vickie Wang, Vancouver; Honourable mention: Emily Peddle, Conception Bay South, N.L.

Black and white poster—Anna Mikhailov, Ottawa; Second: Yuen Ting (Tammy) Chan, North Vancouver, B.C.; Honourable mention: Bree Chatman, Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L.

Poetry—Evan Dicks, Deer Lake, N.L.; Second: Ava Butts, Orleans, Ont.; Honourable mention: Thunya Dudley Nanoose, B.C.

Essay—Zachary Hurl-Kohn, Toronto; Second: Hunter Lobb, West Foothills, Alta.; Honourable mention: Kaylee Harding, Ellershouse, N.S.

Junior

Colour poster—Seowoo (Alice) Jeon, North Vancouver, B.C.; Second: Sadie Winters, Sundre, Alta.; Honourable mention: Nicol Rimski, Sackville, N.S.

Black and white poster—Dawn Wang, Richmond Hill, Ont.; Second: Caleb Yu, Langley, B.C.; Honourable mention: Ahna Holmes, Lyttleton, N.B.

Poetry—Jaidyn McKinnon, Charlottetown; Second: Elise DeBoer, Dunnville, Ont.; Honourable mention: Madeline Klee, Wakefield, N.B.

Essay—Avery Hiemstra, Matthews Settlement, N.B.; Second: Jack Davies, Falmouth, N.S.; Honourable mention: Taylor Scarlett, Camp Creek, Alta.

Primary

Colour poster—Maximilian Lee, Calgary; Second: Rachel Zhou, Surrey, B.C.; Honourable mention: Naomi Wong, East York, Ont.
Black and white poster—Peiru (Brian) Chen, Surrey, B.C.; Second: Ally Corrick, Hartland, N.B.; Honourable mention: Zichun (Ethan) Lin, Kanata, Ont.

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