In this captivating and beautifully illustrated memoir, John Gillies vividly recalls his months as a member of the Otago University Medical Company on an active service tour of duty in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Still a medical student at the time, his youthful admiration of New Zealand war artists from previous conflicts adds a poignant layer to his narrative, told in brief, evocative chapters that offer tantalising glimpses of the variety of humanity he encountered during his time in Vietnam.
Gillies, a lifelong artist and now retired physician, might well be called New Zealand’s first people’s war artist as he takes us behind the scenes and records the people and places that captured his imagination when not tending to the wounded. No combat here, no battle scenes from him … instead, beautiful portraits, bewitching sketches and enduring memories of a time and place where ordinary lives were so violently disrupted.
From crazy escapades to sobering moments, Gillies reflects on the dual nature of his experiences, making Portrait of a War Artist a compelling memoir that delves into the complexities of war, the transformative power of art, and the enduring resilience of the human spirit in the face of challenge.
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