Loyalty, respect and camaraderie aren't qualities you might expect to find in pigeons.
Nor would you expect pigeons to be the winning subject of the Gallipoli Art Prize.
However, the stout little birds are no stranger to warfare. During World War I and World War II, carrier pigeons were used to deliver crucial messages on the battlefield.
Pigeons have even been awarded the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross for human valour.
Printmaker Martin King was fascinated by how animals helped in the war effort.
The Melbourne-based artist read stories telling of soldiers being saved when messages were only able to get through to allies by carrier pigeons.
"The birds were never considered expendable - they were considered integral to the war effort and were treated as heroes in many cases," King said in his artist statement.
King is the senior printmaker at the not-for-profit Australian Print Workshop and birds have often featured in his oeuvre.
His work War Pigeon Diaries consists of intricate prints of pigeons showing how they would have been used during the world wars, displayed on seven open notebooks.
The mixed media piece on Wednesday was announced as the winner of the $20,000 Gallipoli Art Prize for 2019.
The annual award calls for artists to create works in response to the themes of loyalty, respect, love of country, courage and comradeship - qualities embodied in the creed of Sydney's Gallipoli Memorial Club.
The idea for the work came from a black and white WWI image of a homing pigeon with a canister on its back. The image became "embedded" in King's brain.
"Camaraderie was not only between war personnel but extended to the many animals, including the beloved pigeons, that were employed in the service of war," King said.
War Pigeon Diaries, along with the work of other finalists, will be on display from Thursday until Friday, April 26, at the Harbour View Hotel in Sydney.
Australian Associated Press
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