Commissioned for the 2014 Adelaide Biennial, Ben Quilty’s The Island is informed by imagery associated with 1980s Australian surf culture, and references the diagnostic tool of Rorschach – designed to extract and evaluate the dark and unconscious elements of one’s personality.

Borrowing from late-nineteenth-century landscape painting, notably Haughton Forrest’s Gordon River, Tasmania, Ben Quilty’s monumental ink-blot-style work explores the dark undercurrent of the Australian psyche; one haunted by violence and displacement.

Through the use of the Rorschach I attempt to force the viewer to ‘see’ or recognise themselves in history in order to reassess our colonial past, a past that has a dark heart.
Ben Quilty


Ben Quilty The Island, 2013, oil and acrylic on linen, 390.0 x 880.0 cm, courtesy the artist, Jan Murphy Gallery, Brisbane and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

Ben Quilty, studio view, 2013