Watch Ben Quilty draw with Margaret Olley’s teapot cast in chalk


Watch our time-lapse as Ben Quilty draws portraits of Margaret Olley on the wall of the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). These large-scale chalk drawings are based on preparatory sketches he made for his Archibald Prize winning portrait of Olley. Quilty has cast in chalk some of the objects she gave him over the years; teapots, jugs, and vases, and used these to draw with.

Watch the time-lapse of ‘Margaret remembered’

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Ben Quilty first met Margaret Olley after she awarded him the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship in 2002. Of course, when Quilty first heard that Olley was going to be guest judge of the Scholarship he was convinced there was no way he could win — his practice was just too gritty and abstract to appeal to Olley’s interests.

Surprised, Quilty struck a friendship with Olley that would endure to her last days. Olley’s mentorship and advocacy certainly bolstered Quilty’s career — and undoubtedly Quilty’s youthful appreciation of Olley’s spirit, tenacity and lifetime achievement was gratifying given her lifelong devotion to her practice.

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Archibald Prize 2011

Ben Quilty, Australia, b.1973 / Margaret Olley 2011 / Collection: Art Gallery of New South Wales / © Ben Quilty

In 2011, he convinced Olley to sit for a portrait that would win the Archibald Prize that same year. His sketchbook from that sitting has now become the source for a delicate yet soaring wall-drawing that connects these two exhibitions in a tribute to Margaret Olley.

Ben Quilty’s sketches of Margaret Olley in preparation for his Archibald Prize portrait / © Ben Quilty
Ben Quilty, Australia b. 1973 / Margaret Olley 2011 / Etchings on paper created from his sketchbook in preparation for his Archibald Prize portrait / © Ben Quilty

Using pastels cast in the shapes of teapots, jugs and vases from Olley’s home studio, Quilty has captured her unmistakable presence one more time. Quilty has cast in chalk some of the objects Olley gave him over the years: teapots, jugs and other vessels, and has used these to draw as series of portraits.


Ben Quilty has created a series of site-specific, hand-drawn portraits of Margaret Olley.
These large-scale chalk drawings of Margaret Olley are based on preparatory sketches he made for his award winning Archibald Portrait.
The various objects cast in chalk and used as drawing tools are on display below the wall-drawings.
Ben Quilty soaks the various vessels in water that he had cast in chalk before drawing.

Ben Quilty has created a series of site-specific, hand-drawn portraits of Margaret Olley, using a range of objects cast in chalk such as teapots, jugs and other vessels.

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Feature image: Ben Quilty sketching his large-scale drawings for Margaret remembered

‘A Generous Life’ at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) 15 June – 13 October 2019 examined the legacy and influence of much-loved Australian artist Margaret Olley, who spent a formative part of her career in Brisbane. A charismatic character, whose life was immersed in art, she exerted a lasting impact on many artists as a mentor, friend and muse.

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