'Violence and Serenity', Málaga, Centro de Arte Contemporáneo
12 September 2014 – 30 November 2014
CAC Málaga, Centro de Arte Contemporáneo
The first major solo museum presentation in Spain of British artist Marc Quinn at CAC Málaga will include a selection of new and recent works that continue Quinn's investigation into some of the key concerns of our age. This exhibition will centre around a new body of work entitled the 'Toxic Sublime', distorted landscapes that blur the boundaries between painting and sculpture. In the 'Creation of History' series, which comprises oil paintings on canvas and jacquard tapestries, Quinn again returns to an ancient form of art, the history painting, but brings it right into the present day by focusing on how our subjective response to and collective memory of contemporary events can create our historical past. In these works, Quinn selects familiar media images of recent conflict – such as images of masked rioters in Istanbul, protestors in Rio de Janeiro, and anti-austerity demonstrators in Greece – and repaints them in large-scale canvases. Quinn's tapestries are an almost literal manifestation of the notion of history as an interweaving of different threads or stories, as well as a modern-day, analogue version of the pixelated, media image. Quinn's recent series of concrete sculptures such as Id (2012), Zombie Boy (City) (2011) and The Beauty of Healing (2014) depict contemporary anti-establishment figures such as rioters in masks, 'hoodies' or tattooed travellers. In Life Breathes the Breath (Inspiration) (2012), Quinn uses a process of orbital sanding and lacquering bronze to portray himself as a Buddha-like glowing figure, sitting cross-legged on the floor, dressed in the uniform of urban youth – jeans, hoodie and a cap – contemplating an upturned skull as if looking straight into the abyss of his own mortality. These notions of mortality, flesh and death as well as the concerns of still life as memento mori are continued in both the 'flesh painting' series and the new 'carving' sculptures formed from different types of precious stone. The 'flesh paintings' point to one of Quinn's most consistent themes: our reliance on and relationship to nature and to our own mortality. In these works, animal flesh is painted in close-up, creating purely abstract works that emphasise the beauty of nature's own patterning but, at the same time, bringing the viewer face to face with their own fears and repulsion from death. Similarly, in The Invention of Carving (2013), a sculpture of an oversized Spanish Serrano ham in pink onyx inspired by the meat sculptures of the Ch'ing dynasty (1644-1911), Quinn marries the idea of our appetite for food with our appetite for art, questioning both their evolution and mutual correlation. An investigation into notions of identity and control, aggression and submission are also foregrounded in both the ‘Eye of History’ and 'Labyrinth' paintings. In the 'Eye of History' paintings, highly detailed images of a human iris are transformed, through meticulous painting, into a kind of microscopic map of an individual's identity. The 'Labyrinth' paintings also incorporate a form of identification, our fingerprint, into monochromatic, oval-shaped canvases that have an alluringly tactile, sculptural surface. Both the 'Labyrinth' paintings and the 'Creation of History' works seem to point to the enigmatic power of “big brother”, or what the artist has described as our “24 hour media, paranoid vision”: in effect, the attempt to control individual movement and freedom in an uncontrollable world.