In The Studio: Ged Quinn, artist
'I want to introduce things to the gallery experience that are not quite right...'
Saturday 12 January 2013
When Liverpudlian Ged Quinn (born in 1963) was a teenager, he and his then girlfriend went on a holiday together. "In those days you went to the road and stuck out your thumb and waited for a lift." The lorry took them straight down the M5 to the A30 and they ended up in Cornwall.
After completing his studies in the Ruskin School, Oxford; the Slade, London; the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf; and the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, Quinn briefly returned to London, but soon decamped to Cornwall. His current studio outside Penzance stands slightly removed from the stone farmhouse where he lives with his partner and their four children.
Things had changed in the art scene during Quinn's student days. Damien Hirst's warehouse show had irrevocably changed the gallery scene, but Quinn saw the dangers. "I needed to get out and discover what I wanted to do rather than tap into that consciousness that was flying around," he says.
Cornwall in those days was a quiet scene. Quinn remembers that it was possible to get cheap studios, so "it was easier to make art, but there would not be anywhere to show it; so I ended up painting in my sitting room." Susan Daniel-McElroy, then the director of Tate St Ives, offered him a six-month residency at Tate St Ives and published a small catalogue. He was offered a London group show and soon had signed with a London gallery.
Quinn's paintings are now owned by international collectors, but this studio seems a long way from the jostling aisles of the Basel Art Fair or Frieze. At first glance, the half-finished paintings surrounding us might come from a different century – and yet they are inhabited by incongruously modern and sinister objects. "'People were trying to locate modernism meaning in some kind of context. I thought, 'wouldn't it be interesting to try and locate it into the spaces of artists who had died 300 or 400 years ago?'
"It is why the canvas that I am looking at appears to be a mash-up of Poussin and Claude Lorrain, with Star Wars thrown in. All I am using from old paintings is the intellectual space that the artists created for them. In a sense I imagine that I am standing there again and how might it have changed."
Charming as he is, Quinn confesses that he is attempting to disquiet that most gratifying experience of museum-going. People are "going there for pleasure, so really I want to use that language and then introduce things that are not quite right."
The Endless Renaissance, Bass Museum of Art, Miami (bassmuseum.org) to 17 March
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