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Andy Quilty

Australia-Day-Jimblah-2013_1290x1140Featuring a selection of his immediately recognisable ballpoint pen works, in addition to his first ever showcase of paintings, local artist Andy Quilty’s latest exhibition FIFO runs from Friday, November 9, ‘til Thursday, November 22, at Linton And Kay Galleries in Perth.

The acronym ‘FIFO’ (short for fly-in, fly-out worker) tends to conjure up the image of a cashed-up bloke with a penchant for living hard, leaving a trail of fast cars and real estate in his wake. But local artist Andy Quilty is determined to show that this stereotype could not be further from the truth in his new exhibition FIFO.

“My driving desire was to create an honest portrayal of these workers, a counterbalance to the cliché of the ‘cashed up bogan’ described by sections of the public and media,” Quilty explains. “Much of the negativity directed towards FIFO workers for me is very far from reality, I view it as perhaps elitist sentiment suggesting that these blue collar workers are not worthy of the financial reward they receive. I see my artworks in this exhibition as a document of this shift in the working culture, somewhat of a bastard continuation of the subjects favoured by the early Australian impressionists.”

While Quilty has never been employed as a FIFO himself, many of his friends and people in his immediate social circle have, and it was hearing their tales which sparked his interest. “I have always made artwork about the immediate influences that surround me, mates, family, the daily milieu of the suburban Australian male, put simply I paint what I know. Growing up I was the only one of my immediate group of friends who studied at uni, my friends mostly completed apprenticeships and got trades, then with the advent of the mining and resources boom, almost all became fly in fly out workers,” he explains. “Having grown up around the FIFO culture, I am interested in this very significant change in the working culture, particularly in WA, where blue collar workers are being financially rewarded at an unprecedented level.

“I think the term ‘cashed up bogan’ reeks of elitism and, in many ways, seeks to devalue the blue collar worker as less valuable to our culture. There seems to be a widely held belief that FIFO workers blow all their money on jet skis, alcohol and utes, however I find this to be a gross exaggeration. My brother-in-law, for example, has worked FIFO for six or seven years now, simply as a means of providing the best possible environment for his children to grow up in, to send them to a good school, bring them up in a decent house, to have the time and money to take them on family holidays – all very unselfish expenditures.”

Quilty explains that a six week artist residency in Cossack (just outside of Roebourne in the Northwest) also provided much of the inspiration for the work. “While in Cossack, I spent a few afternoons hanging outside the bottle shop in Wickham, around 6pm was peak hour for the mine workers stocking up on booze so I approached a few of the more interesting subjects to be photographed for works. They were willing so much as they would let me take a photo but usually appeared to be in a bit of a rush, perhaps to get home and relax rather than spend their few hours off getting hassled by an artist from Rockingham!,” he explains. “One of the aims of my residency up north was to use the time to return to painting again, something I hadn’t done since I was a Fine Arts student. It has been a constant struggle over the past few months for me to try and find ‘how’ I paint. To find a way of working that is both unique and works for me. I think it is important to try and push myself outside of my comfort zone and for me the pen work is somewhere I am very comfortable now, so the move into painting is a  means of challenging myself artistically and showing that I have more than just pen sketches to offer.”

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