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".
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens trailer: The most extreme fan reactions on Twitter
Doctor Who film will definitely happen, leaked Sony emails reveal
The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer has leaked – watch
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
Russian warships in English Channel 'to conduct anti-aircraft and anti-submarine military drills'