Marc Quinn: Under the Skin

  • Dates:2019-03-08 - 2019-05-01
  • Location:Gallery 3B, CAFA Art Museum
  • Opening:2019-03-08 16:00
  • Organizer(s): CAFA Art Museum
  • Chief Curator: WANG Chunchen

Details

CAFA Art Museum, Beijing, will present a selection of the work of the acclaimed British artist Marc Quinn this March. One of the leading artists of his generation, Quinn’s work explores recurring themes of art and science; the human body; emotion; and the perception of beauty. For the artist’s first... More
CAFA Art Museum, Beijing, will present a selection of the work of the acclaimed British artist Marc Quinn this March. One of the leading artists of his generation, Quinn’s work explores recurring themes of art and science; the human body; emotion; and the perception of beauty. For the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in China, works have been drawn from across his 30-year career and from multiple series, exploring his enduring interest in identity.

Works from the series We Share Our Chemistry with the Stars (2009) depict, at enormous scale, the iris of a human eye enlarged to the point of abstraction. The individuality of an iris and the symbolism of the human eye render each work a microscopic map of the individual’s identity. The fingerprints enlarged in Quinn’s Labyrinth series (2011-present) similarly blur the line between abstraction and figurative form, where individual identity is reduced to a pattern. These bodies of work reflect Quinn’s ongoing interest in creating portraits that are more than just an image of a person but are an actual visual index of their identity.

It is often said that our destiny is written in our palms and it was with this train of thought that Quinn first created his Bread Hands installation in 1991 where he repeatedly traced around his hand on bread, forming a pattern of his own physical identity. Despite Quinn using the same hand to create each piece, every bread hand is unique - suggesting that our destinies are changeable. For Under the Skin the artist has returned to this work to create a collaborative, participatory installation where visitors will be invited to make their own bread hands at a kiln situated inside the gallery, exploring the notion that our flesh and blood are all the same.

Quinn’s Bread Sculptures, a selection of which will be presented in Under the Skin, draw on the religious symbolism of bread as human flesh and use its transformation from a mouldable dough to a solid form to create highly expressive process-led sculptures. The identity of the characters depicted in the artist’s early works - Louis XVI (1989) and Marie-Antoinette (1989) - is warped by the process of their creation (the dough rising and falling into an organic form), reflecting the mutability of life and demonstrating how time and external forces can distort our flesh and our memories.
Inspired by the often fragmented but universally celebrated classical sculpture displayed throughout the world’s museums, Another Kiss (2006) comes from Quinn’s series of work, The Complete Marbles. Exploring society’s perceptions of beauty, these works adopt the language of idealism to represent the 'incomplete' bodies of people who have either lost limbs due to accident or who were born with a disability. They highlight the fact that while the notion of an incomplete body is something that is celebrated and acceptable within the context of art history, it is not always so in real life.

Evolving from Quinn’s desire to reflect the language of classical art and show how it is relevant to contemporary culture, his series All About Love (2016-2017) again uses fragmented sculptures of the human body, this time to explore emotions surrounding love. Each sculpture is a life-cast of two lovers holding one another in different poses. Without heads or faces, we are drawn to the expression communicated by their embrace and the emotion captured in their still forms.

Notions of classicism and beauty also feed into Quinn’s Body Alteration works, several which will be presented in Under the Skin including Chelsea Charms (2010), Zombie Boy (2011) and The Beauty of Healing (2014). Reflecting on life in the internet age, these sculptures depict people who have undergone major physical modifications to change their biological identity and physical form. The works explore how in using one’s body as an artistic medium, the process of alteration can transform a person’s identity, and, in turn, what is under the skin becomes outwardly manifested.

Preface


Marc Quinn: A Metaphor for Being

Zhang Zikang

The Director of the Central Academy of Fine Arts Art Museum 

British art has shaken up the art world since the 1990s withits pioneering, manifold, atypical and assertive styles; the influence has been long-lasting and extensive. CAFA Art Museum nowpresents one of the most iconic artists in this salient phase of British art history, Marc Quinn’s inaugural solo museum exhibition in China. Quinn came to prominence thirty years ago. He is known for his passion about materiality and his audacious use of materials: he made bread sculptures in his early days (he baked the breads in the shape of his own hands); he is no conservative when it comes to materials - ice blocks, glass, marbles, biological DNA, blood and other organic elements; the materiality underscores the fundamental subject of human existence, i.e. the perception of beauty and abnormality as well as its underlying cultural and social connotations. Through his use ofincomplete bodies, blossoming flowers, anamorphoseand flamboyant colouration, he explores themes such as identity, perception of beauty, human desire and how nature is mediated by such desire……the recurring juxtapositionsand contrasts in Quinn’s work are very interesting: traditional materials combined with state-of-the-art technology, abstract concepts projected by figurative forms and so on. In some of his works, the artist repeatedly investigates the forms of a medium inextreme physical conditions, which manifesting aconfluenceof contemporary art and science. With the prudentspirit ofa scientist and the incisive thinking of a philosopher, he redefines the language of art. 

CAFA Art Museum has established multilateral relationships with many British artists, museum directors, curators and critics in the recent decade, and has created constant and systematic intercommunication with them. We collaborated with the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2010 to present an exhibition ‘Decode: Digital Design Sensation’; we have presented solo exhibitions of celebratedBritish artists and designers; we also hosted ‘The Sino-British Museum Forum’ in collaboration with TATEin 2016; in 2018, we continued to work with TATEto launch a series of exhibitions across England; and we have a number of exhibitions of acclaimed artists coming soon. The Central Academy of Fine Arts and CAFA Art Museumhave become a role model of cross-border cultural exchange through its multi-faceted, multi-dimensional and multi-layeredcooperation with British art experts and professionals. We anticipate working further with the global art community, enhancing mutual understanding and bringing great diversity into our museum.


Marc Quinn: A Metaphor for Being

Zhang Zikang

The Director of the Central Academy of Fine Arts Art Museum 

British art has shaken up the art world since the 1990s withits pioneering, manifold, atypical and assertive styles; the influence has been long-lasting and extensive. CAFA Art Museum nowpresents one of the most iconic artists in this salient phase of British art history, Marc Quinn’s inaugural solo museum exhibition in China. Quinn came to prominence thirty years ago. He is known for his passion about materiality and his audacious use of materials: he made bread sculptures in his early days (he baked the breads in the shape of his own hands); he is no conservative when it comes to materials - ice blocks, glass, marbles, biological DNA, blood and other organic elements; the materiality underscores the fundamental subject of human existence, i.e. the perception of beauty and abnormality as well as its underlying cultural and social connotations. Through his use ofincomplete bodies, blossoming flowers, anamorphoseand flamboyant colouration, he explores themes such as identity, perception of beauty, human desire and how nature is mediated by such desire……the recurring juxtapositionsand contrasts in Quinn’s work are very interesting: traditional materials combined with state-of-the-art technology, abstract concepts projected by figurative forms and so on. In some of his works, the artist repeatedly investigates the forms of a medium inextreme physical conditions, which manifesting aconfluenceof contemporary art and science. With the prudentspirit ofa scientist and the incisive thinking of a philosopher, he redefines the language of art. 

CAFA Art Museum has established multilateral relationships with many British artists, museum directors, curators and critics in the recent decade, and has created constant and systematic intercommunication with them. We collaborated with the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2010 to present an exhibition ‘Decode: Digital Design Sensation’; we have presented solo exhibitions of celebratedBritish artists and designers; we also hosted ‘The Sino-British Museum Forum’ in collaboration with TATEin 2016; in 2018, we continued to work with TATEto launch a series of exhibitions across England; and we have a number of exhibitions of acclaimed artists coming soon. The Central Academy of Fine Arts and CAFA Art Museumhave become a role model of cross-border cultural exchange through its multi-faceted, multi-dimensional and multi-layeredcooperation with British art experts and professionals. We anticipate working further with the global art community, enhancing mutual understanding and bringing great diversity into our museum.

Artworks

Photographs

Related essays

UNDER THE SKIN OF THE ART OF MARC QUINN ...

2019-02-25

Marc Quinn is an acclaimed British artist. The first work of his that came to our knowledge was Self, the blood head, from which our fascination with him began. We often wonder, at the present time, how a contemporary artist would work on, think about and confront the vastness of art. It is not a question that everyone can respond to or address profoundly; as a result, the distinctions and diversity of art have developed as it is now. Marc Quinn is an artist who has an intuitive sense for life; it does not come from any intentions of lecturing others, or a posteriori rules for regulating what art is or not. I have been to the UK many times in the past three years and visited Quinn’s studio four or five times, during which I enjoyed our conversations, including a formal interview. As well as having read multiple catalogues and numerous publications on him, I was able to look at and learn about Quinn through a close-up lens. His art career path manifests the fact that the key of making art is by reflecting on life and thinking liberally about the world. Since childhood, he has nurtured a curiosity in things and materiality in general, which is themost basic and raw human quality; as long as one knows how to utilise, practise and develop it, it can be transformed into art that is systematic and meaningful. The presence of art speaks for the essence of itself: boundless imagination and free will.

As the fruit of Quinn’s boundless imagination, he has created art such as making breads to replicate the shape and lines of his own hands. Each person has unique palm lines. When you eat the breads, they become a part of your body, an incarnate of yourself. The act can be further extended to the notion of Holy Communion bread, therefore eating the breads, likewise, is like a conduit to the sacred. This extended imagination has transcended any art forms and techniques; without the former, the latter would profoundly lose its significance; and art, nominally, would fail to have its initial impetus and fundamentality.

In the realm of the contemporary, art is constantly in flux – partly because we have a developed fine art education and communication infra-structure, whereby people, both art professionals and the general pub-lic, have their own prior expectations and presuppositions about art. If  something were to fall out of their range of known methodologies or patterns for art, one might expect misreading and suspicion to arise; even the validity of being regarded as ‘art’ would be in question. However, contemporary art intends to disregard all the rules; it can only reconcilethe intuition of the true self and reflections on life when the application of art forms becomes the least important constituent. Marc Quinn, for instance, was not bound to social or ethical norms when he pondered the human phenomenon of ‘incomplete bodies’: he noticed how the fragmented classical statuary in museums was highly admired by viewers as a paradigm of art; and how this anti-utilitarian, entrenched aesthetic perspective consciously overlooks the disparity in the real life of disability and the disabled, who are undoubtedly human beings with great life value and dignity. This inspired Quinn to make a sculpture of his artist friend Alison Lapper, Alison Lapper Pregnant. This sculpture depicts a nude Alison who was born without arms and with shortened legs, in pure white Carrara marble, gazing far forth and looking serene, solemn and peaceful. In 2005, it was chosen by the commissioning committee  in London to sit on Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth. This sculpture raised widespread attention and debate in that year and an amplified reinterpretation even featured in the London Paralympics opening ceremony in 2012, leading to worldwide celebration. This work can only be borne of a reverence for life; it is not constrained by any prior doctrines; and its existence is glorified by the thoughts about life and the sanctified beings.  

Quinn’s Self(1991) has become an internationally-recognised classic in contemporary art history, as a life-size cast of the artist’s head made up of ten pints of his own blood extracted and stored over a period of several months. The work is cryogenically frozen and displayed in a  specially-made refrigeration unit; the refrigerator also functions as a plinth while the technology secures the work survival. Albeit being an artificial product of technology, the blood head is formed of a material collected from a living being; its physicality recalls a notion of biological cyphers and the religious interpretations of the meanings of life, which in turn embody the philosophy of the mind and body. We could trace a resonance of many great minds in this mighty work, from René Descartes’s ‘Je pense, donc je suis’, the more recent Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s ‘perception and corporeity’, to the ultimate question of body and soul that human beings have been strenuously seeking for millennia (unfortunately the work will not be shown in the exhibition at CAFA Art Museum this time, due to the prohibition of importing blood-based objects). Quinn’s artistic creation is borne of liberal thinking that echoes the origin of life, derives from an understanding of it and shows respect for it. 

I have seen works and books of various languages and multiple forms  and types at Quinn’s studio, not in any order of taxonomy of art education or making. His art does not comply with any textbook rules. As a Cambridge graduate of History of Art and History, and not of fine art practice, he has probed the boundaries of academic classifications; materials and methodologies merely serve as a route to visualise the perceptions from his life experience and thinking. To complete his ‘Alison Lapper’ series, he made a mould of her body at his studio and then oversaw the best stone-masons in Italy in carving the finished figure out of marble. This is about life’s ‘embodiment’ experience. Quinn uses the best practices available to fulfil his artistic vision and assure the quality he envisages. Art has no rules, and this is the essence of art, which has been repeatedly proven by numerous predecessors and by common consent of the modern-day social community. Blood, DNA, performance and interaction, marble, bronze, stone, painting, photography, installations – when isolated from their connotations, they are just raw materials. Once materials are endowed with symbolic life meanings, that is when the solemnity emerges – as it is said, ‘the transfiguration of the commonplace’. 

Today the most striking and sublime art works pay tribute to the living,  thus, they are apt to be accepted and agreed by us, ourselves equally in pursuit of the meaning of our own existence. Despite a tortuous journey, the history of modern and contemporary art is the best testimony: this is the way it shall be. Marc Quinn is an artist among the most scintillating stars that will be praised in art history.


BY WANG CHUNCHEN (DEPUTY DIRECTOR AND CURATOR CAFA ART MUSEUM)


More
Quick loginAccount login
  • Mobile phone number will be your login ID
  •  
Use Artron membership to login