“The etymology of ‘iris’ is derived from the Greek word for ‘rainbow,’” Marc Quinn once explained. “And the colors [of the iris], even in quite subtle, dark colors, there is a kind of celebration of individuality.” In 2009, Quinn began creating large-scale, hyperrealistic paintings of the human eye, capturing how the rainbows of the irises transform suddenly into the black void of the pupil. To create these hypnotic images, Quinn takes close-up photographs of his models’ eyes using a macro-lens—fashion legends Stella McCartney, Sarah Burton, and Karl Lagerfeld all posed for the series—and then paints these “mirrors of the souls” on circular canvases using an airbrush technique. Quinn later integrated images of world maps into his iris paintings and prints, inviting viewers to consider how the rise of …

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