Ben Quilty’s newest exhibition, The Beach, is a culmination of works made in the lead-up to the last American Presidential Election and then continued through recent pandemic times and lockdown.
During that time, he was given a book about the American Realist painter, George Bellows, and it has not left his studio since. Bellow’s paintings of men boxing illegally in early 20th century fight clubs was the starting point for this exhibition.
Taking multiple screen shots of UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fighters locked in deadly and bloody combat, and hosting a team of local boxers, Quilty poses questions about contemporary humanity.
Named after famous beaches around Australia, the fighting men also evoke memories of the Cronulla Riots and continue Quilty’s exploration of Australian cultural identity and the darker sides of Island Life. “To make paintings of men punching the life out of each other feels like an apt response to being alive in 2021,” Quilty says.
The exhibition also features a bronze sculpture ‘Freefall’, a very personal response to Melbourne’s John Batman statues.
Video by Tina Douglas.