The Stephen Friedman Gallery has announced its Frieze 2012 presentation. It will be a solo exhibition of new still life and flower paintings by British artist Ged Quinn.
Quinn’s work takes as its central focus the exploration of art history both in the appropriation of paintings of the past and through the subversion of traditional genres. Under the artist’s hand, the pastoral landscape and the domestic still life are transformed from the familiar to the fantastic. Multiple histories, narratives and mythological emblems collide on the canvas, calling on its audience to unlock its hidden code.
A group of large scale flower paintings and a series of still lifes based on Second World War bunkers have been conceived especially for Frieze in London. The floral paintings bring to mind sixteenth century Dutch canvases, rich in both colour and pattern and imbued with potent symbolism. In each canvas, a seemingly traditional scene is thwarted with rich and modern iconography, calling for our undivided attention.
In the new bunker series, beautifully crafted still lifes are presented in dramatic chiaroscuro in isolation atop a table. While small in size, the canvases are packed tightly with metaphor and historical allusions. What first appears as a glistening cornucopia of fruitcake is on second look a casting of a military bunker, accented by its sharp angles and shading. Inspired by philosopher Paul Virilio’s ‘Bunker Archaeology’, Quinn takes as reference the defensive bunkers created to protect the Atlantic coast from destruction in the Second World War. Now left dotted along the coast, these solid forms stand as relics to times past, ‘ghostly reminders of destruction and oppression’. Indeed in these paintings, Quinn combines opposing forces to dramatic effect: the domestic collides with the defensive, the destructive with the decorative. The fruitcake’s own surfaces are suggestive of blood and bruising seeping from the walls of the concrete. A seemingly peaceful and harmonious setting is subtly underlined by the air of atrocity as we are reminded that with good comes evil.
‘They Covet to Eat but Cannot Digest’ is one such canvas, presenting a board of glistening fruit and cutlery surrounding a towering fruitcake. Highlighted with dramatic shading akin to Francisco de Zurburán, the setting takes on a reverential glow. Shaped as a fortress, our instinctive response of desire to the enticing fruitcake is barricaded. The title of the work, taken from Robert Burton’s ‘The Anatomy of Melancholy’ accents the canvas further in its connotations of light and dark. With incredible technical accomplishment, Quinn furnishes the painting with a myriad of metaphors into the site of multiple historical dialogues and time zones.
This selection of works by Quinn reveals a new dimension to this leading British artist, normally renown for his large-scale pastoral landscape painting. Richly layered and provocatively conceptual in their intimacy, here we are lured into their intertwining histories and infinite beauty.
Ged Quinn will be the subject of a solo exhibition at Bass Museum, Miami Beach (USA) in December 2012 and will also feature in ‘Beyond Reality: British Painting Today’ at Galerie Rudolfinum in Prague (CR) opening in October.
Stephen Friedman Gallery is also pleased to present Tom Friedman: New Works at 25-28 & 11 Old Burlington Street, 9 October – 10 November 2012.