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Julian Thompson – Brisbane

As he draws to the end of his six-month ADF operational deployment in Iraq, Army officer and keen painter Lieutenant Julian Thompson has created a unique record of his experiences.

Lieutenant Thompson has been part of the health team serving with Task Group Taji Rotation Four for Operation Okra, a combined force of Australian and New Zealand Defence Force personnel delivering military training to Iraqi Security Forces.

As a radiographer, he has been working out of the Taji Military Complex hospital, just north of Baghdad, providing diagnostic health support to the men and women of the task group.

"I provide x-ray images for the doctors," Lieutenant Thompson said.

"I look after our Anzacs and foreign nationals, the majority of whom are from the United States Army.

"My role is to assist with the overall health services of the hospital, which in turn enables our soldiers to continue to train the Iraqis with the aim of defeating Daesh, and leading to a brighter future for this country."

Away from day job, Lieutenant Thompson has applied his eye for detail and passion for imagery in a different way.

Prior to joining the Army seven years ago, Lieutenant Thompson worked as a landscape painter.

He has found inspiration in the brown dust and the concrete T-Walls of Taji that make up his current landscape.

"It's a very stimulating environment, being in a theatre of operation," he said.

"The Army offers up a lot of compelling visual imagery, and this totally changed my artistic focus.

"I am very much interested in the symbolism, both of what soldiers do and the history and traditions of the Army itself.

"I'm also interested in the passage of time, and the image of a line of walking soldiers has been a recurring theme in my work."

While his Taji paintings depict a variety of themes, including subjects that characterise deployment, such as body armour, weapons and military hardware, there is one painting that stands out.

"I was privileged to witness the arrival of the Australian Chief of Defence Force, and his traditional welcome by the New Zealand component of our Anzac Task Group," Lieutenant Thompson said.

"This partnership between our countries goes back a long way, I felt this was a very historically significant event, as it showed two partnered armies coming together in an active theatre of operation - I felt very much compelled to create a painting."

The result, "Powhiri (Welcome): The Meeting of the Anzacs in Taji, Iraq" is on canvas, more than two metres wide, and has given Lieutenant Thompson the opportunity to give something back to his fellow Anzacs through raising over $3000 for veterans' charities.

"By collaborating closely with one of my Kiwi counterparts, we have created a series of prints of the painting," he said.

"The numbered and signed prints have been sold to members of the task group with all profits being directed to Legacy in Australia and the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association."

Lieutenant Thompson is looking forward to returning to Australia in mid-2017, but leaving Iraq won't see the end of his artistic journey.

"When I get home, I plan to take a well deserved rest and reconnect with my family in Brisbane," he said.

"I will continue to make images based off my impressions of Taji for some time to come—it's not a pretty landscape, but it makes for distinctive paintings."

Works from the deployment and previous military exercises will be exhibited at the Pine Rivers Gallery in Brisbane in September of this year, and at the Noosa Regional Gallery in 2018.

About 300 Australians and 100 New Zealanders are deployed to Task Group Taji. Lieutenant Thompson and his colleagues will be home in mid-2017.