b. 1973, Sydney, AU
Lives and works in Sydney, AU
Ben Quilty's figurative work explores colonization, violence, and masculinity in Western communities. The artist's paintings contain surreal male forms set against bare, apocalyptic backdrops. Each central figure stands, sits, or falls in a shallow foreground. Like actors on a stage, they command the compositions, offering an abundance of energy, motion, and color before their outdoor backdrops, which resemble the harrowing vastness of sandy, unpopulated beaches or the desert. Quilty's grotesque configurations are redolent of Francis Bacon’s cursed subjects, who contort violently, collapsing in on themselves and into the materiality of paint. Quilty joined the Australian Defense Force in 2011 as an official war artist tasked with interpreting the experiences of Australian service personnel. And in 2016, Quilty traveled to Greece, Serbia, and Lebanon with Australian writer Richard Flanagan to produce art that captured experiences of the refugee crisis. He found that the photographs he took while dispatched did not adequately capture the feel of the experiences, and therefore turned to paint. As the artist notes, his painting departs from the understanding that “men continue to fight each other. Diplomacy is a dying art. Hacking, punching, spitting our way into the 21st century.”
Ben Quilty (b. 1973, Sydney, AU; lives and works in Sydney, AU) holds the Doug Moran Portrait Prize, the Prudential Eye Award for Contemporary Art, and the Archibald Prize. He has had solo exhibitions at Saatchi Gallery, London; Cairns Art Gallery, Australia; Jan Murphy Gallery, Brisbane, Australia; Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, Australia; and Arndt Agency, Berlin, Germany. In 2019, Quilty had his first major survey exhibition across Australia at the Art Gallery of South Australia, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. Ben Quilty’s work is represented in many public Australian collections that include: the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; among others.