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Ben Quilty: after Afghanistan

Feb 28, 2013  ·  2 min read

By Carrie Miller

Ben Quilty is arguably the most successful contemporary painter working in Australia today. His figurative pictures made of thick, ice-creamy slabs of paint are instantly recognisable and highly sought after.

The subject matter of Quilty’s work is often cited as ‘masculine identity’. And certainly he’s mined his own life for his portraits of drunk mates, car crashes, and autobiographical images. His latest exhibition is the result of his work in what’s also considered a ‘masculine’ arena: the theatre of war. As official war artist – a position commissioned by the Australian War Memorial and supported by the Australian Defence Force – Quilty travelled to Afghanistan in 2011 in order to engage with Australian personnel who have been serving in the area since 2001.

For Quilty it was a life-changing experience that can be seen in the twenty studio paintings he made after his return. The portraits of the men and women in service and the images of the machinery of war are imbued with the physical and psychological weight of conflict and its repercussions.

The National Art School has created an additional resource room to accompany Quilty’s sketches and paintings. It includes visual and written material to provide better context to the exhibition and to allow the public to better understand the complex nature of an innately political but, as Quilty shows, deeply human topic.

Until April 13

National Art School, Darlinghurst


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