Tuesday 17 September 2019

What Lies Beneath: Tomnafinnoge by David Quinn

Tomnafinnoge by David Quinn, Mixed media, Courtesy of the artist

Tomnafinnoge by David Quinn
Tomnafinnoge by David Quinn

Niall MacMonagle

In Art as Therapy, Alain de Botton and John Armstrong recommend going home to an art work that is quiet and calm, especially after a frazzled day. As a schoolboy, David Quinn loved "new copybooks, writing on a clean, cushioned page that faithfully registered your line." He didn't like writing on the reverse "but over time I came to love the texture on the back of the written page more, the humble quality of paper and its sensitivity."

This recent work, Tomnafinnoge, on Fabriano paper on plywood, exquisitely celebrates in eight movements a place in South Wicklow where Quinn and his family now live, "a particularly beautiful place, quite different from Dublin." The complementary colours - rose, gold, greys, navy, mauve - are beautifully muted.

"Changes in colour and texture over a year are a great source and sustenance to me. I didn't set out to paint Tomnafinnoge but after I had finished, I was reminded of the drive along the road to Tinahely," he says.

Quinn once spent a year trying to paint on canvas "but it wouldn't register the subtleties of line and mark-making that I'm interested in."

In his studio, listening to Bach's St Matthew Passion or Lankum's new album, Quinn concentrates "on things like the thickness of the tip of the pencil, whether it needs sharpening, the amount of pressure I'm applying, how I will break the line; concentration becomes a form of meditation."

One collector keeps Quinn's artworks in felt envelopes that he takes out of a drawer occasionally to look at. The luxurious Hotel de Crillon, in Paris, has a major work of his.

"Once it leaves the studio it has a life of its own and I hope that it adds something worthwhile to the lives of others."

The top right panel contains a typewriter's repeated full-stop; others are shaded, divided, He's constantly surprised by how a work turns out.

His work is still, calm, deep, quiet. Is he? "Yes, when I'm working; when I'm watching the Dubs or my son's football team - no."

For Quinn, undersong is a beautiful word. "I like the sound of it, the visual, the shape of it. Wittgenstein said that 'uttering a word is like striking a note on the keyboard of the imagination'." No shouting here. Tomnafinnoge strikes eight notes. A hushed octet.

undersong at Taylor Galleries, until December 2. Artist Talk on Thursday, November 23 at 1pm.

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