ARTIST:

Ged Quinn

Ged Quinn
Cake In The Wilderness, 2005
Oil on linen
36 x 46 cm

A cherry cake, beautifully painted in the demure style of a 17th-century Dutch still life, sits atop a glass dish. The shape into which it has been cut, a sort of mock-medieval cross, is that of Spandau prison, the infamous Berlin detention centre and symbol of uneasy Cold War accord to which a handful of high-ranking Nazi officers were banished following their conviction at the Nuremberg Trials. Demolished in 1987 following the death of its last inmate Rudolf Hess, its physical remains were ground to powder and dispersed into the North Sea. At a stroke, Quinn transforms this complex and uniquely sinister structure into a mass-produced teatime treat, impermanent and consumable.

Ged Quinn
God Knows Where This Is, 2004
Oil on canvas
183 x 225 cm

Based on a image by pioneering 19th century landscape photographer Carleton Watkins, God Knows Where This Is lays bare the contradictions inherent in America’s idealist appropriation of sacred Native American hunting grounds to create its iconic national parks. Quinn employs the original photograph’s tonal qualities of light and dark to reproduce a vast canyon of ’wilderness’ stretching further than the eye can see. The harmony is shattered by an incongruous framed portrait, hanging from a single, lonesome pine; ’wearing’ the antlers of St. Hubert, the American poet and libertine Walt Whitman is portrayed in the moment of his fictional suicide, blowing his mind out with another symbol of American freedom, the Colt 45 handgun. This land of freedom and innocence, Quinn implies with no little vehement, is no more than a constructed illusion of false escape.

Ged Quinn
The Ghost Of A Mountain, 2005
Oil on linen
267 x 183 cm

Dwarfed by a bank of towering trees, in a scene reminiscent of the Northern European Romantic tradition, a tiny building stands in a wooded clearing. It is the Berghof, Hitler’s mountain retreat, transplanted from Berchtesgaden to Mount Purgatory, which rises up from the forest floor. The house has been daubed with graffiti, ’tagged’ with the words Urizon, Los, Luvah and Urthona, the four Zoas from William Blake’s unfinished 1797 poem of the same name. Quinn’s choice of this oblique reference to the ambiguous association of myth and Christianity, and the otherworldly, fairy-tale setting he has fashioned for a sickening reminder of an all-too-real real person, is intended to ask the question: what happens when myth replaces history?

Ged Quinn
True Peace Will Prevail Under The Rule, 2004
Oil on linen
183 x 250

True Peace Will Prevail under the Rule is a contemporary reworking of Claude Lorrain’s 1666 Old Testament depiction of Jacob, Rachel and Leah at the Well. In the well, bathed in heavenly morning sun, Quinn has placed a serene image of Mount Carmel, home to a dissident religious community assaulted and eventually destroyed by the FBI in the Texan town of Waco in 1993. He plays with the idea of adopted identity, replacing Jacob, renamed Israel by God in The Book of Genesis, with David Koresh, the community’s leader formerly known as Vernon Howells, who took his constructed identity from the names of a Persian king and the Lamb of God. Suspended above the town hangs the image of a pre- Copernican universe, thought to have been centred around the earth, a motionless centre of concentric rotating spheres.

Ged Quinn
The Fall, 2006
Oil on linen
183 x 250 cm

With its skewed timeline and patchwork Arcadian setting, The Fall sees Quinn continue his rummage through history, myth and popular culture. Trailing smoke and swathed in combat-plane camouflage, the downed body of poet and dramatist Antonin Arnaud hurtles from the sky in a reprise of the proud angel Lucifer’s fall from grace in Milton’s Paradise Lost. He tumbles in a scene borrowed from Claude Lorrain’s Landscape with Abraham Expelling Hagar of 1668, and towards the burnt-out shell of a ramshackle building. It is Thomas Edison’s Black Maria, the world’s first purpose-built movie production studio, littered with the drawings and spells created by Arnaud in the last, anguished years of his life. Any true sense of time or place is discarded as one iconic image crashes into another to leave a chaos of chronology and open-ended associations.

Ged Quinn
Dreams Of Peace And Love Gradually Giving Way, 2006
Oil on linen
183 x 235 cm

Again based on a work by Claude, this time Landscape with the Arrival of Aeneas at Pallanteum from Anglesey Abbey, Quinn’s constructed composition questions the role of art as a vehicle for social improvement. Part of Aeneas’ ship has been recycled into a miniature cinema, complete with beaming projector, rows of red velvet seats and a scene from Tex Avery’s MGM classic Little Tinker. Bound into a raft and drifting listlessly in the nearby river, another part of the vessel that carried the Trojan hero on his journey through the Underworld bears a similarly precious cargo – the Discovery, that pioneering craft from Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 cult science fiction movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Quinn leaves us contemplating another maze of complex references, some recognizable and some more obscure, which challenge conventional systems of pictorial decoding.

Ged Quinn
Dad With Tits, 2007
Oil on canvas
60.5 x 48 cm

Using Gilbert Stuart and Rembrandt Peale’s iconic portrait of George Washington as a starting point, Quinn’s painting of the first American president takes a humorous turn towards the Freudian. Dad With Tits was amongst the first of a series of work dealing with portraiture and authority figures. Playing a semiotic game with the notion of ‘founding father’, Quinn conceives his portrait as something of an oedipal autopsy: a naked decaying corpse boasting a mumsy set of mams. Through the window a volcano, reminiscent of heroic landscapes by Frederic Edwin Church, explodes with both revolutionary and sexual innuendo. The bird perched on Dad’s shoulder is a device commonly used in early Christian art to represent the departing soul of the recently deceased.

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