Paintings preserve Vietnam memories

John Methven OAM beside his portrait, painted by Zoe Panagiotopoulos.

By Danielle Kutchel

A stunning tribute to our Vietnam veterans has been unveiled at Cranbourne RSL.

Provenance Artists opened their latest exhibition, titled ‘Lest We Forget – Vietnam’, at a special event at Cranbourne RSL on Thursday 4 February.

The exhibition features 21 paintings of actions in Vietnam, and 11 large portraits of selected veterans as they are now and as they were during their war service.

At the ceremony, each veteran was able to unveil their portrait and thank the artist who had painted it.

Unbeknownst to the ex-servicemen and women, the artists had also painted smaller versions of their portraits for them to take home, in a special present for them and their families to treasure.

It was an emotional evening for the veterans and their families, as the paintings brought memories – some good, and some painful – to the surface.

Bob Elworthy OAM, state president of Victorian Vietnam Veterans, said the paintings would help preserve each person’s service.

“Each one of these paintings tells the story of the soldiers,” he said.

“And they’re so rich in subject matter, and very evocative, and very thought provoking. You can’t help but be caught up in the moment, and it takes your mind back to days when you were young.”

Zoe Panagiotopoulos, president of Provenance Artists, said the organisation had wanted to do something to commemorate the service of Vietnam veterans.

Provenance approached the National Vietnam Veterans’ Museum at Phillip Island and spent time with a number of the veterans there to learn more about their stories.

“It was very moving, very emotional at times … but it was wonderful that they shared all that with us,” she said.

The exhibition has been over 18 months in the making, and was due to be exhibited in 2020 until Covid halted its progress.

Ms Panagiotopoulos said it was “emotional” to finally see the paintings exhibited publicly.

John Methven OAM of the National Vietnam Veterans’ Museum said the exhibition was a “terrific recognition for all veterans”.

The collection of paintings will be exhibited at Casey Central Shopping Centre from 15-21 March, before heading to the Great Art Show at Nossal High School Berwick over the Anzac weekend, 23-25 April.

They will then be gifted to the National Vietnam Veterans’ Museum at Phillip Island.

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