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If ever there was a transformative moment in the career of Ben Quilty, who made his name with art about young male risk-taking – getting into fights and drinking, taking drugs and speeding in cars – it happened after a trip to Afghanistan, in 2011, where he was an official Australian war artist. Not when Quilty, who had grown up in a north-west Sydney suburb, was exploring the rugged terrain in Tarin Kowt and Kabul by Chinook and on foot, but in the anxious aftermath.

He invited some of the servicemen and women he had met in Afghanistan to sit for him in his studio at Robertson in the NSW Southern Highlands, and they assumed poses of their own choosing.

Cicadas sing as a commuter train trundles past the small triangular Devine Street park in Sydney’s inner-western Erskineville. A permanent tin sign reads "Bujari gamarruwa"– good day – and calls for mutual respect on Gadigal land, while a temporary paper sign dated January 2019 apologises for fresh, wet paint.

Artist Scott Marsh originally painted his commissioned mural St George here during summer two years ago, on the side of the abutting private two-storey terrace. The work, beside park benches and evergreen brush box, tuckeroo and kauri trees, depicted late pop singer George Michael in robes and a rainbow scarf. He held a marijuana spliff.

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