George Gittoes (b.1949) is an Australian artist who travels to war-torn countries to paint the horrific scenes, bringing the reality of war closer to us. Traveling in most cases with the Australian Army or United Nations forces. He is best known for his work in the Philippines, parts of Africa, Northern Ireland, Asia and more recently Afghanistan, and Iraq. He has been doing this for the past 30 years, sketching, photographing and painting victims of the conflicts, making notes about the people he meets and his unusual journeys. His work is presented in multi-media exhibitions which include photography, drawings, paintings, and DVD installations.

He began studying fine art at the University of Sydney in 1968, and was invited to attend the highly regarded Arts Students League of New York. There he was drawn to and greatly influenced by the work of African Americans dealing with the civil rights movement, and the protests against the Vietnam War. Gittoes worked closely with several other artists involved in these things, including Joe Delaney.

By 1993 Gittoes was back in Australia, and felt inspired to search for other civil war situations. He negotiated a deal with the Australian Army to accompany United Nations troops in Somalia—the first of many similar trips he would make till this day. The Australian Army sponsored an exhibition of the works under the title Realism of Peace, and Gittoes was promoted in the media as "Australia's unofficial peace-keeping artist".

Gittoes describes his work as being both about ‘the moment’ and ‘the big picture’. And his work as an "independent witness" who "challenges the image making of the mass media".

He has won a number of prestigious awards, and has been invited to represent Australia in major international exhibitions and artist residency programs. In 1997 he was awarded an Order of Australia for his contribution to the Arts and International Relations.

This year, Gittoes is working in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"In his work and his life, Gittoes is simultaneously a modernist, a postmodernist, a social realist, a pop artist and an expressionist...." -Critic : Alex Sudheim, review of Gittoes South African touring exhibition, 2001.


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