From The Director: Ben Quilty’s Raw Visceral Data


Every year, the QAGOMA Foundation Appeal seeks to add to the Gallery’s Collection a work that makes a compelling artistic proposition – one that somehow feels essential to us and might make others feel the same. This year, we are presenting a work by a leading contemporary Australian artist who is not yet represented in the Gallery’s Collection, but who undoubtedly should be.


Ben Quilty’s view of Australia at war is a deeply human one. Those who have seen the Australian Story documentary ‘War Paint’, which told the story of Ben’s deployment to Afghanistan as an official war artist, will know what I mean. The relationship that Ben formed with members of the armed forces during that experience, and in the months that followed, when many of them visited him to sit in his studio, is the very thing that has enabled works like Sergeant P, after Afghanistan, which the Gallery seeks to acquire through this year’s Appeal.

For the first time ever at a Foundation Appeal event, we were able to go straight to the source, when Ben joined me on stage to discuss the work, his time with his subjects both in Afghanistan and in his studio back in Australia, and the art historical context of his painting practice.

You can view the full video of my conversation with Ben on QAGOMA TV and if you’re interested in contributing to the Appeal, donations can be made.

Ben Quilty, Australia b.1973 / Sergeant P, after Afghanistan 2012 / Oil on linen / Photograph: Mim Stirling