Ben Quilty

Ben Quilty - Painter, Activist

Portrait of Quilty by his friend,and protégé -- death row prisoner Myuran Sukumaran

Ladies and Gentleman of The Dayglo, Tonight as Guest DJ, a man and artist we have so much respect and admiration for, we will NOT get into the usual disgraceful bagging and leg pulling and general lowdown dirty discourteous rat baggery that we usually accord our esteemed guests.

So -- Ladies and Gentlemen. Let me bring onto the stage arguably Australia's most exciting living artist -- a man known not only for his vivid and thrillingly supercharged work with paint, but also his tireless work as an activist in some of the most pressing causes of our time. He is an Archibald winner. (His portrait of Margaret Olley will bring a tear to your eye.) His work as official war artist was not only courageously honest but a moving testament to the aftereffects of war on combatants, and his Rorschach works that deal with the historical massacres of Aboriginal people are as raw and visibly distressing as any art ever from Australia. His determined and brave campaign to save the lives of reformed drug smugglers, his friend Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, was heartbreakingly unsuccessful when they faced a firing squad in 2015 after 10 years on death row. Nevertheless the campaign drew much needed attention to the extraordinarily disproportionate and grotesque way in which crimes are dealt with in some parts of the planet.

Quilty's work continues to meet both critical and...

Oh stuff it, where's the fun in this? Quilty is a ghastly bogan who owns bogan cars, drives bogan cars, paints bogan cars and is a slurred bogan drinker of bogan slurry who drives badly painted bogan cars. And what's more he's changed his name. He used to be Ben Quality, but the Dept. of Fair Descriptions put a stop to that. Then it was Ben Quilter, but the Country Women's Association quite rightly slapped a Cease and Desist on that. After that it was Ben Quoll which of course enraged all good Australian conservationists. And more. Until now it's now Ben Quilty, or Bin Kwulty as he's known in New Zealand. Quilty is....

Stop me Jesus, stop me. This was meant to be a respectful tribute, but there's something about Quilty that brings out the worst in us all. And what's more, here he is on stage...and he's a big fella too.

Hi Ben. Sorry mate, touch of the Tourette's. Not my fault. Ow!

Oh look -- here's a mutual friend -- Paul Clarke, an undesirable from Potts Point. Paul, come on up -- did you want to speak in Quilty's defense? ...Ow! OK -- go ahead Paul...

Ben Quilty displays all the characteristics of the quintessential New Zealand male. Which is strange for an Australian.

He is warm, considerate, funny, unintentionally ironic, has a beard, and with a beautiful wife and telegenic children that look like LOTR elves (without the sour disposition and high foreheads).

With a huge heart and a tiny brain, his artistic style is something to behold, though he could probably create more pieces if he didn’t slap so much paint on each work. I mean, he does bung it on (don’t ask him to paint your house, it’ll cost a fortune).

He will stand up for the little man, and lobby publicly and with great passion for causes he believes in, and never take a backward step. which can bring him unwarranted attention and judgement. He speaks his mind, and couldn’t give a toss what others think. That’s where the Australian in him really comes out.

He is one of the world’s great humanists, so much so that he uses the word ‘human’ at least once in every sentence.

Ben is a renowned orator, speaking with a rare dignity, fervour and control. His preparation for public speaking involves playing it by ear, getting rat-faced drunk and rambling on for so long even Robert Mugabe would say, "enough already."

He is a muscle-car-loving revhead, whose great moment of enlightenment came when he bought a real work of art, a Ford XB coupe. Ben’s parenting skills come to the fore when driving, his daughter Liv often yelling, "Go Faster, Dad!"

Ben laughs like a hyena, looks like a bushranger and is a seriously funny human who makes any party better, but never wants to leave one.

Agh, dammit Paul, as always you say it better than me...

Enough already! Ladies and Gentlemen. Without further ado – a big Dayglo TM hand for a fine fella, friend, compadre and ally, the extraordinary and simultaneously very ordinary DJ du soir – the marvelous...MR BEN QUILTY!

Top 11 Tunes

  1. Bron-Y-Aur Stomp - Led Zeppelin

    The most stonking rock song ever written. A mix of fat base guitar, beautiful lyrics and spoons (played by John Bohnam) written in Bron-yr-aur a house with no running water or electricity on the side of a misty Welsh mountain in 1970 when the band needed a break from touring and fanatical fans. I've always imagined myself a very helpful assistant in that house, serving tea, cleaning up in the morning, adding to the stomp, a quiet fanatical fan. My Grandpa Austin played the spoons, but never like this
  2. Mozart Piano Concerto no.1 in C Major - Amadeus Mozart

    The piano! Ten fingers and a musical genius to fling a full orchestra around a room like a swarm of drunken bees. Mum and Dad took us out of school for a year when I was 10 and drove off around Australia. They had three cassettes - The Shadows, John Denver, and this. This piece of music owns me. I haven’t listened to the Shadows since I was 10. Amadeus penned in 1785, The Page and Plant of the 18th century
  3. Balckfella Whitefella - Warumpi Band

    Rocking, wild dudes from Papunya in central Australia, with Yolngu lead singer George Burarrwang from Elcho Island. This song is my country’s real anthem. It’s worth noting here that Federal Minister Peter Dutton walked out of the Australian Parliament during the Stolen Generation Apology in 2008. Today he’s the ‘Australian Minister for Border Protection’ overseeing Naura and Manus Islands.
  4. Going to California - Led Zeppelin

    My 7 year old Olivia’s favourite song. I packed my family in the car and headed a thousand kilometers one year to see Robert Plant perform at Australia’s Byron Bay Bluesfest. He was extraordinary. Half way through Going to California my little Liv fell asleep on my shoulders. She was 4 and I’d proudly thought she was swaying beautifully to the music. Her head hit my arse. She barely woke up but a sea of flanny-clad, joint smokers berated me as I cradled her through the throng and took her home to bed. She’s 7 now, no lasting damage.
  5. I'm Still on Your Side - Jimmy Barnes

    Jimmy Barnes gave us use of this track for the campaign to save my friend Myu Sukumaran who was executed for drug smuggling in Indonesia last year. It was the soundtrack for a massive vigil we held in Martin Place in Sydney. But the most powerful thing for me about this song was Myu’s reaction when I told him that Barnesey had given us the rights to use it. He was speechless. This song makes me emotional, but it has empowered my emotional side ever since it came out in 1987
  6. Shelter from the Storm - Bob Dylan

    Was driving to a country tip and my mate played me this and I’d never heard it and I was reborn. Feral cats swarm over the piled up rubbish and my mate’s old Merc stereo blasted this song into their furry ears too.
  7. Jolene - Dolly Parton

    Most effortless, smooth voice, ever.
  8. No Secrets - The Angels

    This is my youth! I made a painting after it all called “Pills choppy cones petrol when we're poor coke when we're not bulbs shrooms oil and aerosolDoc Neeson sweated on me in a pumping nightclub in Sydney’s western suburbs in 1993. He was honestly one of the best front men I’ve ever seen, albeit just a tiny bit scary.
  9. Depreston - Courtney Barnett

    Legendary, down to earth and gritty young singer songer writer from Melbourne, Australia. This my favourite !
  10. Society - Eddie Vedder

    Pearl Jam right up there for me, but Eddie on his own, live? Tears, joy, profoundly moving performer. He is one of my greatest role models. Using art to change the world. Pearl Jam’s Vs album was one of the first moments I felt the power of art, massive outdoor concert in Sydney in 1994, illegally from the top of a power staunchion.
  11. Don't Dream It's Over - PS. I'm not sure that I can live without the inclusion of Crowded House's ... really maybe I'm over blowing the darkness in the list I've sent through. And Crowded House nourished the very best in me, or at least the best bits that existed when Temple of Low Men was released! And for Australian artists they're really nearly biblical. -- I'm joking about the biblical bit.

Thanks Ben! You the man! Now, should we open a bottle of something refreshing? Yeah, bugger it, let’s do that.