Great works: Cross in the Wilderness (2003-4) by Ged Quinn
Friday 07 June 2013
Occasionally a contemporary painter will indulge in weirdly anachronistic and utterly engrossing plays of historical association. When we try to date this forested scene on our pulses, our first instinct is to say: German Romanticism at the turn of the 19th century; the lonely, soulful woods, mountainscapes and skyscapes of Caspar David Friedrich, for example, which were often inhabited by self-absorbed beings. Except that there is no human being here, and this painting was made just a decade ago.
Had it been created in an earlier century, it would scarcely have been regarded as a legitimate pictorial enterprise at all because at first glance it seems to have almost no theme. It consists of little other than this extraordinarily tall screen of forest, so dense that we have no hope of seeing through it to a less oppressive scene. We want the scene to rise and fall – that would give us pleasure – but it does not do so. It comes on at us, relentlessly foreboding; in fact, it almost presses against our eyeballs. No, nothing is stirring here.
The proportions of the work rather unnerve us too, the sheer tallness of the trees, their blockish unassailability. Had the painting been a little wider, and a little less tall, we might not have suffered such tremors of apprehension. But it is these sinister games of scale that disturb us most of all. What is this architectural structure that is partially concealing itself amid all these fragments of lopped tree limbs? Why is it so small, and why, by comparison, do these anorexically thin trees soar so high behind it? Surely both cannot be true. Their respective scales are utterly at odds with each other.
And then there is that strange structure itself, part felled signpost in a wood, part perverse rendering of a thickened out cruciform shape, with the strewings of branches and twigs posing as some kind of ghostly reminder of Christ's crown of thorns.
This is in fact a miniaturised version of Dachau concentration camp. An ever-burgeoning seedling of pure evil, then.
About the artist: Ged Quinn
Ged Quinn, painter and sometime musician, was born in Liverpool in 1963, though his training as a painter was Europe-wide. He studied at the Ruskin School of Drawing in Oxford, the Slade, London, the Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf and the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. He now lives and works in Cornwall with his partner and four children. He played keyboards in the Liverpudlian band, the Wild Swans, and co-wrote The Lotus Eaters' hit single, "The First Picture of You".
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days
Oscar voter speaks outfilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Forget 'The Dress': Here are five of the biggest news stories you might have missed
- 2 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 3 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 4 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 5 Saudi Muslim cleric claims the Earth is 'stationary' and the sun rotates around it
Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl: First look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Catwoman comes out as bisexual
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Justin Kelly interview: On James Franco playing a gay man who renounces his homosexuality
Grace Dent on TV: Mary Portas: Secret Shopper delves into a grim cornucopia of retail wrongness
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts