Strength, fragility, trauma and resolve


The Gallery is pleased to be able to display Archibald prize winner Ben Quilty’s striking portrait Sergeant P, after Afghanistan 2012, in time for reflection this ANZAC Day. The portrait was acquired through the 2014 Foundation Appeal with generous support from Foundation members and donors, including a lead donation from the Returned & Services League of Australia (Queensland Branch).

Since its display at the Appeal Launch in 2014, the work has travelled across the country as part of a national tour with the Australian War Memorial. It is now on display at GOMA for the first time since its acquisition and can be viewed until 29 October 2017.

Commissioned by the Australian War Memorial in the role of official war artist, Quilty spent three weeks on the frontline in Afghanistan in October 2011 talking to and documenting the experiences of Australian Defence Force personnel participating in Operation Slipper.

The work is the remarkable result of a private studio session with a returned solider who had received life-threatening injuries in an accident during his service. Despite his severe injuries he was determined to stand for the entirety of the session. Quilty captures his subject with striking pathos, conveying Sergeant P’s strength and fragility, trauma and resolve.

Sergeant P, after Afghanistan 2012 pictures the demons that many servicemen and women live with, making it a powerful portrayal of the complexity and breadth of military experiences.

Ben Quilty with Sergeant P, after Afghanistan 2012 / Purchased 2014 with funds from the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation Appeal and Returned & Services League of Australia (Queensland Branch) / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist

The Gallery will open from midday on ANZAC Day, offering visitors an opportunity to view the portrait and take a moment of reflection to honour the sacrifice made by those in the Armed Forces. The Australian Cinémathèque also presents a free screening of Peter Weir’s classic 1981 film Gallipoli at 3pm. The film will be screened from a restored 35mm print courtesy of the National Film and Sound Archive.

Gallipoli tells the tale of two young soldiers, each competitive runners, their initial rivalry soon transforms into a close friendship – or, rather, mateship. They each join the Anzacs, but Peter Weir luxuriates in the quotidian details of their lives rather than rushing into battle. It is a story of mateship, of tragedy, of a young nation and the young men who sacrificed their lives in its name.

Watch Ben Quilty in conversation on QAGOMA YouTube / Read more about ‘Sergeant P, after Afghanistan’ on our blog

QAGOMA acknowledges the generous assistance of the National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra in providing materials for this program