Ben Quilty: after Afghanistan – an Australian War Memorial’s travelling exhibition features a series of powerful portraits depicting the realities of war and presents portraits of soldiers that Quilty met during his tour, including Air Commodore John Oddie, former Deputy Commander of Joint Task Force 633 in the Middle East Area of Operations.
Quilty was appointed as an official war artist by the Australian War Memorial in 2011 and was deployed to Afghanistan to interpret the experiences of the servicemen and women who formed part of Operation Slipper.
Quilty says he was profoundly affected by his tour of Afghanistan, and after spending more than three weeks talking to, and hearing the experiences of, servicemen and women in Afghanistan, he felt an overwhelming need to tell their stories.
“Afghanistan is a very emotional place. It exposes the basics of humanity right there in your face: matters of life and death, the biggest themes an artist could ever imagine,” says Quilty.
“I hope that when people walk into this exhibition they will get more of a sense of what is like to be in Afghanistan. Not what it looks like, but what it feels like. What it is like to survive an experience such as these Australians have been through.”
Ben Quilty: after Afghanistan showcases 21 studio paintings, along with 16 works on paper sketched by the artist during his tour of Afghanistan in 2011, and continues a distinguished tradition of appointing official war artists, a practice established during the First World War.
Previous war artists have included Arthur Streeton, Will Dyson, Yosl Bergner, William Dargie, William Dobell, Donald Friend, Sidney Nolan, Grace Cossinngton Smith, Peter Churcher and Wendy Sharpe. More recently Jon Cattapan, eX de Medici, Shaun Gladwell, and Lyndell Brown and Charles Green.
Ben Quilty is a renowned Australian artist and the winner of the 2011 Archibald Prize for his portrait of Margaret Olley. He has been recognised with numerous other awards, scholarships, and residencies in Australia and overseas. In November 2012 he was appointed a trustee to the Art Gallery of New South Wales Trust.
Ben Quilty: after Afghanistan
Griffith University Art Gallery, 226 Grey Street, South Bank (Brisbane)
Exhibition: 12 April – 7 June 2014
For more information about Ben Quilty: after Afghanistan, click here!
Image: Ben Quilty, Kandahar, 2011, oil on linen, 140 x 190 cm, acquired under the official art scheme in 2012 AWM ART94525