The Evo project, Sheep Wash Road 2012
oil on canvas | 170 x 150 cm
purchased with funds from Rockhampton Art Gallery Trust and public donations 2012 | image courtesy the artist and Jan Murphy Gallery | 2012.010
Ben Quilty likes to smear, smudge, cake and slap paint onto the picture plane with bold virtuosity and frenetic results. His rich impasto works challenge assumptions by celebrating various subjects; from early works depicting adolescent male rights of passage such as fast cars, including his LJ Torana, and his ‘wasted’ mates, to portraits of himself, his son Joe and Jimmy Barnes. Lately his subjects focus more broadly on Australian identity, history and ‘painting’ itself. Quilty has recently created portraits from his experience as Australian official war artist in Afghanistan.
Quilty has completed residencies in several Australian centres, as well as in Paris as the winner of the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship, and at the Australia Council, Barcelona Studio in Spain. He has been a finalist in the prestigious Wynne and Archibald prizes and won the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize in 2009 and the Archibald Prize in 2011 with his portrait of friend and mentor, the late Margaret Olley. His work is held in the collections of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Queensland University of Technology Art Collection, and numerous corporate and private collections.
The Evo project, Sheep Wash Road resulted from Ben Quilty’s twice-daily task of driving his kids to and from school along Sheep Wash Road where road works were taking weeks to complete. The face of the council worker holding the stop/go sign became a familiar sight and Quilty was inspired to paint his portrait. Thick paint has been applied with gusto and instinct, creating contrasting surface textures that enhance the council worker’s squinting eyes, ruddy cheeks, and fleshy jaw line. In contrast to Quilty’s earlier paintings of young men and fast cars, this portrait seems to show the transition to middle age.