Asked recently how he was spending his time during lockdown, Ben Quilty said he was working on a massive painting entitled 2020 ‘which is about the end of humanity as we know it and that is screaming off the wall.’
It depicts ‘a single figure lying on a table, a self-portrait about the way I feel, the way world politics is derailing a healthy future.’*
Screaming off the wall, 2020 reveals how the Black Summer fires and Coronavirus – back-to-back disasters – impacted on his making of one painting, turning what had begun as ‘notes on chaos’ into a monstrous and powerful portrayal of anger and suffering.
Watch the video of Ben Quilty in the studio with 2020 via YouTube.
*Nick Galvin, Kerrie O’Brien and Chloe Wolifson, Portraits of the artists in Isolation, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 29, 2020.
Benjamin Armstrong has eschewed paint for ink in a number of his works over the years. His first exhibition at Tolarno Galleries in 2007 included sets of linocuts printed in metallic pigments on hand dyed paper, framed under etched glass. A few years later, he showed Chinese ink and watercolour pictures.
Now there are large linocuts printed onto stretched polyester and his studio doubles as a showroom for this online exhibition. Under the Southern Sky comprises eight works. The images, as Quentin Sprague observes in his catalogue essay: Contact Images, are “Australian in character… not the quasi-mythical construction embodied by notions of ‘mateship’ and a ‘fair go’, but the more foundational character imparted upon us by this country’s history, by the shockwaves of colonisation.”
The compositions are partly inspired by tales of first contact – in particular, Bruce Pascoe’s story telling in Cape Otway: Coast of Secrets (co-authored with Lyn Harwood in 1997). Delving into the past, Benjamin Armstrong, in this powerful and captivating series, offers his imaginative take on the story of ‘first contact.’ It’s a very distinctive reading of cross-cultural junctures that leads into highly nuanced works. Chameleon pigments shift and change like shot silk; colours alter miraculously as light plays over their surfaces. “This is history as magic realism.”
Image: Benjamin Armstrong Inception I 2020. Linocut, pigments & binder on polyester, 133 x 102 x 3.5 cm
“We should remind ourselves, from time to time, that despite what goes on in the world, the best in art always recommends the truth and its sometimes complex and ambiguous nature. As Plato said ‘beauty is the splendor of truth.’ ” – Bill Henson, 1 May 2020
Visit the online viewing space to see three new works from Bill Henson.
Image: Bill Henson Untitled 2010-20 RC SH47 N32C (2010–20), archival inkjet pigment print, 127 x 180 cm (paper size)