memory. language, art. wittgenstein. books. ceramics.

all sorts of thinkings on memory, language, art, wittgenstein, books, etc, while I am getting on with my MA

Sunday 20 June 2010

Ged Quinn's surreal paintings at Wilkinson Gallery

The other gallery I really enjoyed today, was Wilkinson Gallery. They have a show by Ged Quinn, called SOMEBODY'S COMING THAT HATES US.
Ged Quinn is tremendously unsettling, very dark and gently humorous. Sort of laughing and crying at the same time. Just like that.

Quinn will present a new body of work that not only ruminates on Romanticism and its historical forms and precedents, but also charts a narrative of its demise. Distinctly separated through the physical curation, the artist first details the envisaged end with a series of romantic landscapes turned dystopian: Turner and Friedrich’s world on its knees polluted, its reputation besmirched. Within these, Quinn’s world, peered at through the canvas, we see the come down, after the sublime aesthetic high, laid bare. In the upper galleries the artist addresses the human cause of the downfall, placing them like rogues in stocks, mocked by their painted editions: Hitler with breasts or a bonnet; Beria, Stalin’s chief of police, with a black eye; before them Victoria and Albert and so on. The landscapes are not an attempt to envisage an alter-reality; instead they map the artist’s profusion of references and thoughts in any given period. They could even be seen as the churning of the mind after the emotional high, a dreamlike scenario reflecting on reality, but also apart from reality. There is an undoubted sense of allegorical statement to be found within the densely detailed surfaces, yet it is an allegory that the artist refuses to give an easy solution to, preferring a feeling of heightened ambiguity. Quinn commonly paints straight to canvas, initially with broad washes of paint and a loose handling, only to detail the surface as the work progresses; as such they are gestures of ongoing cognitive action, not tightly controlled, easily deciphered distillations of thought. The viewer is instead left to tread their own coded path into the image and worm out the abundance of nonhierarchical cultural references independently. The strands and allusions are plethoric, rubbing shoulders with the philosophy and art historical motifs of the nineteenth century for example, the seeking viewer can also discern a lyric by John Cale in the show’s title. The unlikelihood of this companionship is mirrored in the barmy and almost prehistoric world evidently juxtaposed against the prosaic symbols of its downfall, an old mattress, a dumped utilitarian chair. Quinn is undoubted master and author of his creations, this itself responds to Romanticism’s idea of the artist as peddler of transcendent revelations; yet his authority over the works – each symbolism only ever finding its full subtext within the artist’s own mind and the converse democracy of giving the works over to the viewer’s personal determination – gives rise to questions of authority. The works are Quinn’s, He has rightful name to them, but the figures depicted in the portraits sort an authorship of different means. The suggestion that Quinn leads us to is that the corruption of sublime glory is undoubtedly down to a divine authoritarian madness. The portraits portray those that took on differing personas in their leadership, but all claimed transcended sanction. Each used aesthetics – stretching into the art historical modes of portraiture as social emblem – to give credence to their divine right. In Quinn’s world they are brought down with everything but egg appended to their faces.

Here my daughter said: "If I could paint like that, I would not ruin the whole picture with a naked boy in the middle" (see above)