VIRUS, 2006

Part 1: Important Fine Art
27 November 2013


born 1973
VIRUS, 2006

oil and aerosol on canvas

160.0 x 150.0 cm

signed, dated and inscribed verso: Ben Quilty / 2006 /'Virus'

$35,000 - 45,000
Sold for $45,600 (inc. BP) in Auction 32 - 27 November 2013, Melbourne

GrantPirrie Gallery, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney


Truth and Likeness, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, 25 November 2006 – 8 April 2007 (label attached verso)

Catalogue text

Acknowledged as one of the leading artists of his generation, Ben Quilty's approach to painting is unrelentingly honest, emerging from the solid foundation of personal experience. Throughout his career Quilty has presented an incredibly strong series of images, investigating notions of masculinity from an Australian perspective. In the catalogue essay accompanying Quilty's 2007 exhibition at GRANTPIRRIE, Sydney, in which portraits of the artist's six-month old baby son Joe were included, Michael Desmond offers an insightful view of the development of Quilty's work:

'Quilty's earlier work represents the apprenticeship of fast food and fast cars, drinking and drugs, graffiti and petty vandalism that typified the Australian male rites of passage in the 1980s. The 'Joe' paintings, in contrast, speak of a manliness acquired through fatherhood "parental delight, pride and responsibility. Celebrating the emergence of a new life, the paintings counter the phallic cars, skulls and self destructive impulses of adolescence. When shown at the National Portrait Gallery in the Truth and Likeness exhibition, a female colleague reported that the paintings of baby Joe had to have been done by a man. A woman artist, I was assured, would be accused of soppiness and sentimentality but a man might paint his child as an expression of tenderness that could only emphasise an authentic masculinity ' (A similar reversal of the gender claims on subject matter occurred two decades earlier when male artists found it near impossible to depict the female nude without suggesting aggression but the same subject iterated feminine values in the hands of a woman). However, this is not to say that Quilty's paintings of his bubby are all fluffy and angelic or conventionally 'feminine'. Each endearing face is built from a welter of vigorous and robust brushstrokes. If these paintings were sculpture they would be carved with a chainsaw. The images of Joe, like all the portrait heads in the exhibition, possess an imposing aspect that both disturbs and challenges viewers' preconceptions, an effect derived from their monumental scale and the dialogue between paint and what is painted.'1

1. Desmond, M., Ben Quilty: God's Middle Children, catalogue essay accompanying the exhibition, Ben Quilty: Pride and Patriotism, GRANTPIRRIE, Sydney, 2007