Ben Quilty Exhibition

Watercolour sketch of Folly by Sebastian Di Mauro, Bendigo Art Gallery

Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolour in Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook (14.0 x 21.6 cm)

Yesterday I went to the Bendigo Art Gallery to see the recently opened Ben Quilty exhibition. Beforehand I spent an hour sketching the artificial grass covered Folly by Sebastian Di Mauro in front of the gallery.
Folly by Sebastian Di Mauro, Bendigo Art Gallery
I know very little about Australian art and would probably remain totally oblivious to the significance of the Ben Quilty’s exhibition if Jodi haven’t mentioned it to me. The quick research revealed that Ben won the Archibald Portrait Prize, one of the Australian biggest art competitions, in 2011 with his portrait of Margaret Olly and had a solo exhibition in the Saatchi Gallery, London. The works currently displayed in Bendigo are from that exhibition.

I was lucky to have a chance to learn more about the ideas behind Ben’s works during his talk. He sounded passionate, straightforward, confident in his vision and the ideas he is aiming to express via his paintings. The underling theme of the exhibition is his exploration of being “straight white male” in the country that had very reach, complex and ancient culture before the arrival of the white colonists. After hearing his talk I can’t imagine him painting anything else in any other way. His paintings are HIS, they express his view of the world, his opinions and his life experiences. A sign of true artist.
Ben Quilty Evening Shadow

Ben Quilty – Evening Shadows, Rorschard after Johnsone.

The reach textural quality and the depth of his works can only be glanced from photographs and need to be seen in person to have the full impact. I wished I could stroke the paint, trace the bumps and hollows with my fingertips. The colours are strong and beautiful, but upon further looking one starts to see the underlying darkness and the gravity of the subject matter.

There is an interview with Ben Quilty in the Time Out and an article in the Age that touch on the same topics as his talk in the gallery. The Ben Quilty exhibition in Bendigo Art Gallery is on until 1st of March 2015. His works are also currently displayed in Australian War Memorial, Canberra and another one of his exhibitions will open on 15th of January in Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong.


4 thoughts on “Ben Quilty Exhibition

  1. whimseytopia

    Love this post. When I have a minute I will visit the links. I wish I could have been with you on this outing. I sense your enjoyment and emotional connection with his work, and gallery visiting is my second favorite activity. Wonderful sketch by you, and I’m surprised you got such depth out of Cotman. I have put those paints away because they just don’t work for me. Maybe they are too old – don’t know. But you brought about beautiful color with them. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Zoya Post author

      Patsye, thank you. It would’ve be great to have someone to join me for the exhibition and the talk. I ended up chatting to two completely random women about our thoughts and it felt very helpful to have to put my feelings and impressions into words straight after seeing the paintings and listening to Ben’s talk.
      I also struggle with Cotman watercolours at times and keep debating with myself if I can afford to replace them with the artist grade ones. I find it helps wetting them with a lot of water few minutes before I start painting, so the paint/pigment has a chance to dissolve in the water until it creates creamy mixture.

    1. Zoya Post author

      Good luck with making it to the gallery, I know it must be hard to find the time with all the other tasks that need to be doing. I usually go to gallery with my 3-year-old and only look at the few paintings – it some ways it is enough.


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