Published: Mon 10 Dec 2012

The Australian War Memorial will launch a new exhibition, Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan, featuring new works from official war artist and Archibald Prize-winner Ben Quilty at the National Art School Gallery in Darlinghurst on 21 February 2013.

Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan will showcase 21 studio paintings, along with 16 works on paper sketched by the artist during his tour of Afghanistan in 2011.

Quilty says he was profoundly affected by his tour of Afghanistan: “I had such extreme feelings about the smell, sound, emotions of being in Afghanistan, I want to convey this.”

After spending over three weeks talking to, and hearing the experiences of, servicemen and women in Afghanistan, Quilty felt an overwhelming need to tell their stories. A significant part of the exhibition presents portraits of the young soldiers the artist met during his tour.

Exhibition curator Laura Webster says, “The portraits reflect the experiences of these young soldiers during their Afghanistan tour and after their return to Australia.”

“The works reflect the immensity and overwhelming nature of Afghanistan, and the war being fought there,” said Webster.

Quilty was attached to the Australian Defence Force (ADF) from 11 October until 3 November 2011. During this time he observed the Australians’ activities in Kabul, Kandahar and Tarin Kot. His task was to record and interpret the experiences of Australian service personnel who are deployed as part of Operation Slipper.

Ben Quilty’s works continue a distinguished tradition of appointing official war artists, a practice established during the First World War. The Australian War Memorial’s official war art scheme is the longest running and largest commissioning art program in Australia.  The scheme makes a rich contribution to Australian art, while playing a significant role in Australia’s interpretation of its wartime history. 

Will Dyson became the first official war artist in 1917, and he was followed by George Lambert and Arthur Streeton. Since then, official war artists have included Ivor Hele, William Dargie, Stella Bowen, and – more recently – Jon Cattapan, eX de Medici, Shaun Gladwell, and Lyndell Brown and Charles Green.

Ben Quilty is a renowned Australian artist and the winner of the 2011 Archibald prize. He has been recognised with numerous other awards, scholarships, and residencies in Australia and overseas. In November 2012 he was appointed a trustee to the Art Gallery of New South Wales Trust.

After Afghanistan: Ben Quilty will be on show at the National Art School in Darlinghurst, Sydney, from 21 February to 13 April 2013; it will then tour Australia.

The National Art School Gallery is located on the National Art School Campus

Forbes Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney.

Opening hours are 10am – 4pm, Monday – Saturday.

To request an interview with Ben Quilty or the Memorial curator Laura Webster email


CONTACT DETAILS   Tom Vasey   (02) 6243 4575   0409 600 038

                             Diane Morris (02) 6206 9825