Skip to content


An image of Fairy Bower Rorschach by Ben Quilty
Alternate image of Fairy Bower Rorschach by Ben Quilty

Ben Quilty

(Australia 01 Sep 1973 – )

Fairy Bower Rorschach
Place of origin
RobertsonNew South WalesAustralia
Media category
Materials used
oil on linen

120.0 x 130.0 cm each panel; 240.0 x 550.0 cm overall

Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Purchased with funds provided by the Patrick White Bequest 2012
Accession number
© Ben Quilty
Not on display
Further information

'Fairy Bower Rorschach' continues Ben Quilty's practice of oil painted Rorschach works where an original painted image is both damaged and duplicated by pressing one panel at a time onto another similar sized panel while the paint is still wet. Quilty refers to the Swiss psychoanalyst Hermann Rorschach's ink blot tests - widely seen as pioneering contemporary mental illness therapy and medication at the beginning of the 20th century.

The damaged and mirrored image is of a waterfall at Bundanoon in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales near where Quilty lives and works. Fairy Bower Falls is an idyllic and spectacular destination for tourists and locals. Photographs from the mid 19th century depict the full colonial splendour of women with parasols and men in top hats at the foot of the falls.

Fairy Bower Falls is also reputedly the site of a massacre of scores of aboriginal people in the early 19th century. Although there are no written records there has been a strong oral history of such an event handed down amongst locals.

By Rorschaching this image of such a precarious site Quilty asks the viewer to reconsider their conception of this landscape as a place of idyllic beauty. The duplication and damage of the image echoes the disturbing and violent history this site may have witnessed. This work continues Quilty's exploration of Australian identity and history.

Bibliography (3)

Andrew Denton, Ben Quilty: the Fiji wedding, 'Heartquake: embedded with Quilty', n.pag., Melbourne, 2013, n.pag. (colour illus.), n.pag.. viewed 27.06.2013,

Lisa Slade, Ben Quilty: Prudential Eye Awards Contemporary Asian Art, 'Ben Quilty', pg. 9-11, United Kingdom, 2014, 9, 16-17 (colour illus.), 32.

Natalie Wilson and Anneke Jaspers, Foundation Newsletter #22, 'Curators' and coordinators' reports: Australian art', pg. 6-7, Sydney, Jun 2013, 7.

Exhibition history (4)

Ben Quilty: the Fiji wedding, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, 20 Apr 2013–01 Jun 2013

Trigger-happy: Ben Quilty's brave new world, Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University, Canberra, 08 Nov 2013–15 Dec 2013

(Ben QuiltyPrudential Asian Eye Award), Saatchi Gallery, 01 Jul 2014–01 Aug 2014

Ben Quilty, 11 Dec 2014–01 Mar 2015