#NOLAN100 - NO. 9

Young Soldier, 1977

Clare Woods

"My first meeting with the image of this painting was in a roadside hedge between Kington and Prestigne on the Welsh border.  The poster was for an exhibition of works titled Gallipoli by Sidney Nolan at the The Rodd. Firstly this did not feel like any of the Sidney Nolan works I knew and secondly it looked so out of place in this verdant British summer setting, this displaced image instantly worked its magic on me and so we pulled in.

Walking down the gravel drive from the field where we had parked, into what at that time can only be described as a farmyard into a large drafty barn and there it was. It greeted us - a vibrant large glossy pink painting that still looked wet to the touch. There were many other works around the barn but this was the painting that caught me and held me and would not let go. It would not let me look at anything else.

This haunting image of a young man feels so empty and broken. There is a heavily painted blue over the nose and around two holes where the eyes should peer out, all that is revealed is green emptiness. The mouth is expressionless and looks as if it would never open. The hat, crumpled looking, sits onto a flat head that does not support any ears. The figure is mute, blind and deaf yet the monochrome background is yelling at me, it is so loud. Shouting from behind this shell shocked figure ‘can you see?’"


Clare Woods was born in Southampton in 1972 and lives and works in London and Herefordshire. She completed an MA in Fine Art at Goldsmith’s College, London in 1999, after a BA in Fine Art at Bath College of Art, Bath, in 1994.

Sidney Nolan, Young Soldier, 1977, Ripolin and oil on board,122.0 x 91.5 cms, Private collection, © Sidney Nolan Trust

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Arts Council England