New collection on display | Bendigo Art Gallery

Ben Quilty Kuta Rorschach no. 2 2013 Oil on canvas RHS Abbott Bequest 2014 Image courtesy of the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne.
Ben Quilty Kuta Rorschach no. 2 2013 Oil on canvas RHS Abbott Bequest 2014 Image courtesy of the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne.

A new display of works has just been unveiled in Gallery 1 which includes several new acquisitions as well as significant works on loan.

This selection of works illustrates the diversity of practice in contemporary art and includes a wide variety of artistic styles and media.

On loan to Bendigo Art Gallery from the Hon Paul Guest QC is a major work by renowned artist Gordon Bennet – Home Décor (Algebra) Ocean.

Bennett was one of Australia’s most significant contemporary artists, addressing issues relating to the role of language and systems of thought in forging identity. His bold and humane art challenged racial stereotypes and provoked critical reflection on Australia’s official history and national identity. Rejecting racial stereotypes, Bennet freed himself from being categorised as an Indigenous Australian artist by creating an ongoing pop art-inspired alter ego: John Citizen.

Another significant loan that is being exhibited for the first time in Bendigo is Ginger Riley’s Limmen Bight Country. Riley painted his mother’s country, focusing on the weather-worn rock formations known as the Four Archers near the mouth of the Limmen Bight River in south-east Arnhem Land. Using bright, luminous and often contrasting colours and strong flattened forms, Riley depicted this landscape and its ancestral beings. Riley’s extraordinary creativity allowed him to reinvent this subject matter, again and again, expressing in his work his vision of physical geography, creation knowledge and ancestral sites.

Returning to display after some time in storage, is Ben Quilty’s Kuta Rorschach No. 2. Quilty is undoubtedly one of Australia’s most highly-regarded contemporary painters. His work is characterised by a gestural painterly style and is widely known for his quick working method, which deliberately leaves smears, smudges and almost three-dimensional brush marks on the canvas. 

This work is from his acclaimed Rorschach series, which mimicked the ‘ink blot’ tests introduced in the 1920s as a tool for psychological testing. Each of the paintings in the series depicted picture book landscape scenes that belied their more sinister history. 

Kuta Rorschach No.2 shows the famous Bali beach – a popular holiday destination for Australians now inextricably linked to the ‘Bali bombings’ of 2002 – a terrorist attack which claimed the lives of 202 people from 22 countries, including 88 Australians.

Photographic works are also an important aspect of the new hang, with works by Polixeni Papapetrou and Tracey Moffatt. Papapetrou originally trained as a lawyer but decided to become a photographer after seeing the work of Diane Arbus. By focusing on the theatricality of childhood, she explored an unconscious realm between the real and the imaginary, archetype and free play, child and adult and photography’s capacity to bridge truth and fiction.

Papapetrou’s work Desert Man features a ghillie suit – a type of camouflage clothing developed by Scottish gamekeepers. This work was inspired by the artist’s then 14-year-old son Solomon, who was familiar with the ghillie suit through playing the video game Call of Duty. The artist explained her aim was to ‘make a body of work that looked at what it felt like to be a boy going through adolescence. In The Ghillies, the subjects are my children but because they are so disguised and cannot be named, they can speak universally about the condition of childhood.’

These are just highlights of the new collection display at the Bendigo Art Gallery, drop in to see all the works or join a free tour offered by our volunteer guides. Collection tours are available at 11am and 2pm each day. 

- Tansy Curtin, curatorial manager, Bendigo Art Gallery