Australia's peacekeepers in East Timor captured by artist Rick Amor

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Rick Amor is a contemporary Melbourne painter, printmaker and political cartoonist. He was appointed by the Australian War Memorial as an official war artist to record all aspects of Australia’s involvement in the multinational peacekeeping force – The International Force in East Timor (INTERFET).

INTERFET was an Australian Government initiative, authorised by the United Nations Security Council, to re-install law and order to East Timor following independence in 1999.  

As Australia’s first war artist in 30 years Amor was given free reign to choose subjects in East Timor and associated support activities in Northern Australia.  

Speaking on ABC Local Radio, before arriving in Dili on 11 November 1999, Amor said he would try to hit the ground running because he only had three weeks in Timor: “I can paint and draw on the run. I’m used to hard work and strange conditions”. 

Rick Amor portrait

Rick Amor, Self portrait, 2006, lithograph National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, gift of the artist 2008 © Rick Amor

Despite three days of briefings in Darwin, Amor was still unprepared for the level of destruction he found: "I was shocked by the destruction, it's just everywhere. I couldn't believe how thorough [the militias and Indonesian forces] had been. It was profoundly depressing.”

Amor travelled with the Australian troops to Suai, Maliana and Balibo, sketching and taking photographs to take back to his studio.  He was asked by the Australian War Memorial to provide 22 works but ended up providing almost twice that amount.

Amor’s body of work as a war artist in East Timor was exhibited at the Australian War Memorial in 2000 and provides a lasting tribute to those Australians who served in East Timor and to the East Timorese people.

His portrait of General Cosgrove, Commander of INTERFET, was included in his recent exhibition “21 Portraits” at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.