In May 1944 Canadian soldiers fought one of the bloodiest battles of World War II as they cleared the way through the Liri Valley enabling the Allies to take Rome.  Sixty-seven years later, I was in the Liri Valley.  The restored Benedictine Abbey of Montecassino anchored hazy blue mountains and a valley of sharp spring colours of budding vines and almond blossoms.  From narrow roads where arches celebrated the triumphs of Caesar’s legions, I saw Canadian CF18s returning to their Italian base from the NATO air war against Libya, which Canada was commanding.

I know little of war.  I was five when my father went overseas.  Canada paid for my university education as a child of the war dead.  My teachers were war artists Alex Colville and Lawren Harris Jr.  As witnesses, their paintings were of a visceral nature that a woman of a country that had never been occupied could not match.  Time, however, provides the advantage of perspective.  The Liri campaign had slipped into obscurity and I wanted to acknowledge the suffering and sacrifice of our liberating army and the Italian people as tribute to the 70th anniversary in 2014.

In each painting the under-painting is the colour of blood.  Layered in a pointillist technique over cooler hues it reappears in the sky and on the ground, in bombed-out buildings, on the cloak of the Roman god of war and petals of poppies. Emotionally charged colours enable the viewer to react to the optical vibrations of suppressed violence. Red, emblematic of war and power, distinguishes the stark imagery of warfare from the peaceful scene and palette within the arched window.

The titles of the 10 paintings are the names of places where significant events and battles took place. Using symbol and metaphor as tools of expression, official and regimental diaries, quotes from The Iliad, images appropriated from Italian art history and World War II archives, my sketchbook and notes, I have attempted to reconcile my imagination with the facts of war.