Ben Quilty - After Afghanistan - exhibition opening

The official war artist commissions, the longest running and largest art commissioning in Australia, provides us with an understanding of Australia’s experience in and at war. Each artist who spends time with the men and women of our defence force contributes to that understanding. Since the First World War, these artists have added their representation, their impressions of war adding to the array of interpretations of our wartime history.

It is wonderful to be at the Griffith University Art Gallery tonight. The Queensland College of Art, sits at the gateway of our world-class cultural precinct, which stretches from here right down to the Gallery of Modern Art. I and the other 140,000 or so people who live here, in our electorate of Griffith, are so fortunate to have such ready access to these great institutions.
And now one of our pre-eminent cultural institutions, the Australian War Memorial, has brought this wonderful exhibition to our doorstep.


I’d like to thank the Australian War Memorial for bringing this exhibition to Brisbane. The Australian War Memorial holds a special place in the way that Australians think about our history. When you visit the memorial in Canberra, you are quickly confronted by the memories of the 100,000 men and women who have given their lives in the service of our nation. However, the war memorial, because of its remarkable collection, also tells the stories of all those men and women who put on a uniform and left this country to defend it.

When Prime Minister Curtin opened the War Memorial in 1941 he called it “the true sanctuary of Australian tradition.” The traveling exhibition program is a wonderful program that gives all of us access to that tradition.


The official war artist commissions, the longest running and largest art commissioning in Australia, provides us with an understanding of Australia’s experience in and at war. Each artist who spends time with the men and women of our defence force contributes to that understanding. Since the First World War, these artists have added their representation, their impressions of war adding to the array of interpretations of our wartime history.

This latest commission is a substantial contribution.

Ben Quilty has made a particularly moving interpretation of our experience in Afghanistan. In each piece you can see and feel the experiences of the soldiers. Each piece of this work shows just how personal and intimate that experience is.

My predecessor, the Hon. Kevin Rudd, said recently while opening the exhibition “Afghanistan: The Australian Story” at the Australian war memorial-

"War is not about the cold arithmetic of numbers. It is about real life human beings and their stories of survival, courage, compassion… humour, but above all, beauty."

The facts and figures don’t tell the story of the exhaustion, the heartache and the loss. The 400 lives lost in Afghanistan only tell part of the story of the great burden that is shouldered by the brave men and women that have served so far from our shores. This work manages to capture the burden on the faces of these men and women. It captures the personal experience of these courageous men and women.  You can feel Trooper M’s exhaustion. You can see Troy Park’s solemness. 

Ben’s choice to have the subjects pose nude has allowed him to contrast the masculinity and hardness required to go to war with the vulnerability of being a human being in an often shocking and inhuman environment. 

With ANZAC day approaching it is particularly poignant that we are here opening this exhibition. In a couple of weeks’ time we will pause to honour the sacrifice of those in our armed forces. We reflect in a very personal way on the way war has affected our lives and those of our families and community.


I commend Ben Quilty, the Australian War Memorial and the Griffith Art Gallery for contributing to the fine tradition we have in this country of remembering our servicemen and women.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Volunteer

connect

get updates