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Major Ben Quilty exhibition opens at Brisbane's Gallery of Modern Art
Installation view: Quilty, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 2019; photo: Grant Handcock.

BRISBANE.- Interested in the work of a socially engaged contemporary artist committed to art’s capacity to raise awareness and instigate change? Then experience ‘Quilty’ at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art.

Curated by Dr Lisa Slade, Assistant Director, Artistic Programs, Art Gallery of South Australia, ‘Quilty’ is the first major survey in a decade of one of Australia’s most acclaimed contemporary artists, Ben Quilty.

Featuring 70 works from the early 2000s to the present, the exhibition includes the artist’s revisions of the Australian landscape, raw intimate self-portraits, and works inspired by harrowing recent visits to Lebanon, Syria and Greece where he witnessed first-hand the exodus of refugees.

In 2011 Quilty visited Afghanistan as an official war artist and on his return to Australia he sought the company of service men and women who had experienced the crucible of conflict and human suffering. He painted their raw emotions during individual sittings in his studio in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.

A selection of these powerful portraits are featured in ‘Quilty’ along with ‘The Last Supper’, a series of large, arresting paintings created in 2017 in response to the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America.

Among the must-sees are Quilty’s expansive Rorschach paintings including Irin Irinji 2018 and Fairy Bower Rorschach 2012. Using a psychoanalytic tool designed to evaluate personality and emotional function, these monumental paintings explore the dark undercurrent of the Australian psyche, one haunted by violence and displacement.

All of the multi-layered works in the exhibition demonstrate Quilty’s signature surfaces, thickly smeared, smudged and caked with rich impasto gestures of paint applied with a bold virtuosity.

QAGOMA Director Chris Saines said ‘Quilty’ also featured images of the artist’s family and friends, including a series of large-scale sketches of artist Margaret Olley that Ben created on the walls of GOMA in early June.

‘At the same time as ‘Quilty’ we are thrilled to be presenting ‘Margaret Olley: A Generous Life’ at GOMA, a Queensland-only exhibition of more than 100 works by the late, much celebrated Australian artist who was a close muse and mentor of Quilty’s.

‘I encourage anyone with an interest in the power of painting to visit GOMA from June through to October to experience these two free exhibitions,’ Mr Saines said.

For the duration of ‘Quilty’ a dedicated program of hands-on and multimedia activities for children and families will be presented at the Children’s Art Centre.

Developed in collaboration with the artist, his 13-year-old son Joe and 10-year-old daughter Olivia, ‘Ben Quilty: Family Portrait’ encourages visitors to create hand-drawn and digital portraits and experience Ben’s work through 3D models of his paintings. Objects from Quilty’s studio including his paint-slathered work table and coveralls are featured, along with a video that captures Joe Quilty painting a portrait of his father from life.

Ben Quilty was born in Sydney in 1973 and now lives and works in the Southern Highlands of NSW. Quilty has been a finalist in the prestigious Wynne and Archibald prizes and won the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize in 2009 and the Archibald Prize in 2011 with his portrait of artist Margaret Olley. In 2011 Quilty travelled to Afghanistan as an official war artist with The Australian War Memorial. He was invited by World Vision Australia to travel to Greece, Serbia and Lebanon with author, Richard Flanagan, to witness firsthand the international refugee crisis in 2016. Quilty’s work is represented in major public, corporate and private collections in Australia and continues to draw acclaim with regular solo exhibitions both in Australia and internationally.

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