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  • Ray Monde

Why you want to bite into Ben Quilty’s work, just mind the nipples

I was lucky enough to stop by Ben Quilty‘s exhibition at the National Art School. Ben was the offical war artist in Afghanistan, commissioned by the Australian War Memorial.


His works are staggering in scale and paintwork. It looks like he’s taken great slabs of paint and smeared them across the canvas. It makes the paint very meaty, very chunky and made me want to bite at the canvas.

It’s bizarrely edible in a gnashing of the teeth kind of way, as the subject matter is harrowing. Soldiers and military personnel laying their souls bare, in naked contorted positions, evoking great weight on them.  It was also incredible to see great swathes of unpainted canvas, with colour slapped on where necessary. It was great to see this, not long after seeing how Bacon played with blank canvas and textured paint himself.

This work reminded me of the stained glass windows in war memorials, and the one below it looks like something out of Indiana Jones with crazy melting faces.


It was great to see the works up close, sometimes I don’t know how he managed to get compositions right as when you’re up close it’s just a mush of colours and slashes.

I don’t doubt Ben’s work is going to inspire a host of thick, sweeping paintings, just like Adam Cullen sent shockwaves of dripping paint throughout the Australian art scene.

If you can’t make it to the National Art School, the Ben Quilty exhibition is touring Australia, so keep an eye out for it. Just make sure you eat before you see it.

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