The latest show at the Drill Hall Gallery is Ben Quilty’s ‘Trigger Happy’. While I have seen quite a bit of Quilty’s work on the TV, following his stint as an Official War Artist in Afghanistan, this is the first time I’ve seen a whole show of his work in the flesh.
And ‘fleshy’ is definitely a good way to describe Quilty’s painting style. The oil paint is applied in such generous amounts that I had to wonder how any work painted this year managed to dry in time for the show. Not to worry they did and they are on the walls. The show includes a large number of portraits, a series of landscapes and a room of delicate works in watercolour pencil along with some prints. While I was there the room of family portraits was attracting the greatest number of visitors. The end wall is dominated by two large portraits of the artist’s son. On another side is a ‘Rorschach’ painting of his daughter (on the left hand side of the photo above) and other members of the artist’s family. While the two portraits of Joe dominate there are equally equally eloquent smaller images such as the head and shoulders portrait of Kylie and another portrait of Joe in watercolour (on the far right of the photo above. Clearly people were responding to these beautiful works – there was no 10 seconds and then move on in front of these paintings. The other room which really impressed me was the one containing the drawings. These small works demonstrated such a delicate touch and clearly showed Quilty’s fine drafting skills . I made sure I had plenty of time to see the show so I was able to do some blind drawings of some of the works I enjoyed. The outcomes of doing a blind drawing of a large gestural painting can be rather obscure, so once I got home I scanned my drawings and then did some additional work on them in Photoshop©. For the two drawings you can see the original and then the version I coloured, drawing on similar colours to those used in Quilty’s paintings. I was pleasantly surprised with the result for both images.