McQuillan has long explored the inherent properties of materials in simple, labor-intensive processes. Since 2013 she has focused on a systematic investigation of color relationships, inspired by the way technology mediates the perception of the modern viewer’s experience of color in the world. Working on wood panels, the artist applies clear acrylic polymer over a ground, then adds lines in white ink in a series of controlled gestures. The lines are subsequently suspended and manipulated to create an underlying net of complex folds and undulations. Translucent color is then added according to the artist’s ordered system, with patterns that are unique to each work. This process is repeated in multiple layers, creating paintings up to ¾ inches thick. While McQuillan works according to set rules, the final result is never entirely predictable, as optically unexpected mixtures of color occur as they are layered in the clear medium.
McQuillan’s exhibition title, Offset Drift, refers to a technical term describing the fluctuation of electric currents or other phenomena that deviate from an expected norm. The artist notes, “As much as I try to follow the rules I made at the outset, my process invariably runs off the rails, and goes off in an unexpected direction. That is not to say I just rely on accidents, because my process is a very directed and restrictive system. It’s just that all plans go awry and all systems go haywire.”
In her new paintings, there is a wider range of scales than in previous bodies of work, and larger paintings are achieved through the use of multiple panels. The colors are rich, varied and luminous, and patterns create an energetic oscillation; in larger works, strong macroscopic geometries emerge.
McQuillan has been exhibiting nationally and internationally since the early 1990s. Her work has been reviewed in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Artnews, among many others. In June 2018, McQuillan’s permanent public art installation, commissioned by the MTA’s Arts & Design program, was unveiled at the elevated 36th Avenue N/W subway station in Astoria. Multiple panels of laminated glass span three sides of the station, creating a colorful and immersive experience for subway commuters.