The Art Gallery of South Australia will host the first major survey exhibition in a decade of one of Australia’s most acclaimed contemporary artists, Ben Quilty.

Simply titled Quilty, the exhibition is curated by AGSA’s acting director Lisa Slade (former director Nick Mitzevich is now at the National Gallery of Australia). It will be unveiled on March 2, 2019 before touring to the Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

On show will be a career’s worth of Quilty’s expressive compositions, which famously explore Australian masculinity, identity and history. Broadsheet’s editorial director Katya Wachtel said, “It’s an understatement to describe his work as painterly – his colourful canvases are covered in thick, tactile licks of oil paint that can take up to three years to dry”. One of them – a portrait of artist Margaret Olley – won the 2011 Archibald Prize. That, along with a portrait of Jimmy Barnes, will be on display at next year’s show.

The collection will extend from Quilty’s early reflections on the initiation rituals performed by young Australian men to his experience as an official war artist in Afghanistan and his campaign to save the lives of Bali Nine pair Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. It also includes works inspired by Quilty’s visits with author Richard Flanagan to Lebanon, Lesbos and Serbia; his revisions of the Australian landscape; and raw, intimate portraits of himself, his family and his friends.

“My work is about working out how to live in this world,” says Quilty. “It’s about compassion and empathy but also anger and resistance. Through it I hope to push compassion to the front of national debate.”

“For most of this century Quilty has been delivering urgent visions of our time in history,” adds Slade. “The exhibition presents a portrait of a socially engaged contemporary artist who is committed to art’s capacity to instigate change. Quilty’s subjects are never objectified, but always rendered through the lens of personal experience.

A fully illustrated book, including essays from Slade, author and close friend Richard Flanagan and head curator of international art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales Justin Paton will accompany the exhibition.

Quilty opens at the Art Gallery of South Australia on March 2, 2019.