In The art that made me, artists discuss works in the Art Gallery of NSW collection that either inspire, influence or simply delight them. This selection by Ben Quilty first appeared in Look – the Gallery’s members magazine.
When Andrew Denton visited Ben Quilty at home in 2013 to write about his Fiji Wedding show at Melbourne’s Tolarno Galleries, the television producer and comedian described a corner of the artist’s studio as being ‘entirely submerged under solidified globs of multi-coloured paint, as if a rainbow had crawled there to die’.
Quilty trained as an artist in an era when it was constantly put to him that painting was dead. Denton’s mortal rainbow was further proof of life. Defying the naysayers, the artist persisted at pushing paint around canvas, picking up the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship, Moran and Archibald Prizes, and an appointment to the board of trustees at the Art Gallery of New South Wales along the way.
In 2014 he was awarded the inaugural Prudential Eye Award for Contemporary Art in Singapore and staged his first exhibition in London at the Saatchi Gallery. ‘His choice of subject matter and exuberant painterly style has shocked and seduced,’ Barry Pearce writes in 100 moments in Australian painting. ‘Quilty adding to the mix of his mercurial profile an articulate conscience about society and politics.’