Ben Quilty is a masterful social commentator and narrator of extremes. He is internationally regarded as one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists and has won many of Australia’s most coveted art awards, including the Archibald Prize in 2011 and the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize in 2009. This exhibition brings together two major works on loan to the Gallery - Fairy Bower Rorschach 2012 from the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, and Kuta Rorschach No. 2 2013 from the collection of the Bendigo Art Gallery.
Through his paintings, Quilty challenges relationships between the personal and the cultural. The tension in his work is accentuated through the choice of subject matter and his use of thickly applied, smeared and smudged impasto paint surfaces using the Rorschach method. The resulting works have a sense of unresolved urgency that leave the viewer with no place for ease or escape. The Rorschach method involves sandwiching one side of a painting onto another to produce an almost-mirror image. The style is based on the inkblot test that was introduced by Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach in the 1920s. Quilty chooses images of popular tourist destinations that have a darker history behind them, and, using the Rorschach method, he reworks them to create more sinister images to explore complex issues of Australian identity and history. Fairy Bower is a New South Wales tourist attraction, which is also thought to be the site of an horrific massacre of scores of Aboriginal people in the early 19th century. Quilty’s painting depicts the peaceful landscape, which is then deconstructed to show the dark underbelly of the Australian psyche that is haunted by a colonial history of violence and displacement.
Similarly, Kuta Rorschach No. 2 shows the popular Bali holiday destination that has become inextricably linked to the ‘Bali bombings’ of 2002. This terrorist attack claimed the lives of 202 people from 22 countries, including 88 Australians. The duplication and damage of the image echoes the disturbing and violent history this site may have witnessed and offers a commentary on the temptations faced by Australian tourists who frequently fail to see the consequences of their risk taking activities in this seductively exotic tourist destination. The Entangled Landscape is a rare opportunity to experience two major works by one of Australia’s most influential artists of the twenty-first century.
Saturday 6 March 2021 / 5.00 - 6.00pm
Ben QUILTY Fairy Bower Rorschach 2012 241 x 520 cm (overall) Purchased with funds provided by the Patrick White Bequest Fund, 2012 Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Photographed by Mim Stirling
Ben QUILTY Kuta Rorschach No 2 2013 oil on canvas 220 x 520 cm (overall) Bendigo Art Gallery Collection R H S Abbott Bequest Fund 2014 Courtesy of the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne