The British pastoral painter Ged Quinn’s style has been described by one critic as “malevolent… sinister ”. It’s easy to see why, considering his subject matter. Quinn favours dark Romantic forests, silent pine-strewn paths and peaty skies. But in this new exhibition, Quinn showcases a sweeter edge.
Consider the fluffy linden tree that dominates Bloodstream Sub Tilia(on the right of the picture below). Folk mythology suggests that inhaling its pollen leads to nothing so sinister as… good dreams.
There’s definitely something intoxicating about Quinn’s woozy landscapes, artistic inspiration for which ranges from Wordsworth to Dürer, via obvious visual debts to Edvard Munch and Caspar David Friedrich. Though look closely, and you’ll see the occasional very modern bright purple and green blotch overlaying the finely-worked oil paints: glowing there like petrol on a puddle.
My favourite was a small work, Munch’s Backward Glance in Negative, which is, as its title, is an adaptation of a work from the Norwegian master: 1901’s New Snow. Cast in the negative, Munch’s dark but snow-flecked pines become ghostly pinkish spikes. His whitish sky becomes a deep blue. Equally Romantic, but subtly inverted. Made new.
Not being as well-versed in art history as the artist, I’m sure some of Quinn’s dense allusions, mentioned but not specified by the show notes, floated over my head. But I was still totally taken in by his paintings’ spell.
Ged Quinn is at Stephen Friedman Gallery (London). November 21 2019 - January 18 2020