Stephen Friedman Gallery is delighted to present an exhibition of new paintings by acclaimed British painter Ged Quinn. This is the artist’s second show at the gallery, following his recent retrospective at New Art Gallery Walsall and his exhibition at Galerie Rudolfinum in Prague. Featuring new paintings in all four galleries, this show will offer fresh insight into the artist's practice.
In this body of work, the surfaces of some of Quinn’s more familiar landscape, portrait and flower paintings are subverted with intersecting blocks of colour. Accompanying these works will be the first group of abstract paintings which Quinn has made especially for this exhibition. In contrast to his previous work, where contemporary elements act as incisions into conventional frameworks, here the planes of colour lie on the surface of the paintings as colder adaptations to the underlying image.
In one of the abstract paintings, ‘‘Mo’ Sto Bene’ (I’ll Be Ok Now)’, copper green and beige blocks of colour are carefully dissected by straight black lines in a nod to the boldly modernist packaging of potent medicinal drugs. With the text removed and the image unadorned, the boxes are strikingly modernist and Bauhausian in their aesthetic. A textured glaze is then applied to the surface of the works adding an element of age to the modern design. Through transpositions, Quinn toys with both the notions of history and also what it means to be a contemporary painter today pushing the boundaries of a traditional medium.
Two epic Arcadian landscapes immediately draw the eye into a narrative obstructed by dense areas of colour that stretch across the vista. Intrusive and yet inviting as one geography is remapped onto another, Quinn recalls the fiction of modernism inside the fiction of arcadianism. In one painting, a pastoral scene is overlaid with prominent dark brown minimalist stripes. Covering the right side of the canvas, the shape recalls a kind of scaffolding or filmstrip linking the artist’s interest in filmic imagery and montages. Here again Quinn draws on the designs from boxes of prescription drugs.
Quinn’s fascination with the work of the radical twentieth-century auteur Pier Paolo Pasolini forms an integral motif in this exhibition and in particular his unmade film of St Paul. The screenplay was written between 1968 and 1975 but the director was murdered before the film could be created. Pasolini’s work is a fitting subject for Quinn, as an artist equally intrigued by historical transposition and the remediation of source material into new forms. The re-imagining of Pasolini’s idea for ‘St Paul’ is especially evident in Quinn’s seascape painting. Inserted into a typical scene taken from a seventeenth-century Dutch School painting, a stormy ocean is disrupted by a sign for the Memphis Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King was assassinated. It was also the planned location for a scene in one of Pasolini’s films. The specific arrangement of red squares is lifted from the label of a Degesch Zyklon B canister and then overlaid onto the seascape. Filmic elements inspired by Pasolini and Jean Luc Godard appear throughout the show in the invented scenes, speculative locations and inverted stills in these large-scale paintings.
This new body of work illustrates Quinn’s dedication to the medium of paint both historically and materially. Confidently evolved, each canvas bears testament to a refined technical skill matched with an academic investigation into various histories of film and art. Heralding a significant new development in the artist’s work, the exhibition proves that Quinn’s paintings continue to challenge, confront and delight in equal measure.