Monday 23 September 2019

What lies beneath: Self (Red) by Marc Quinn

Self (Red) by Marc Quinn

Hand-coloured pigment print on gessoed aluminium. Courtesy Solomon Fine Art and Osborne Samuel

Self (Red) by Marc Quinn
Self (Red) by Marc Quinn

Niall MacMonagle

In the average adult body between nine and 12 pints of blood are always on the go. In 1991, artist Marc Quinn, then aged 27, had 10 pints of blood, over five months, extracted from his body. Poured into a silicon mould of Quinn's own head it was then frozen and placed in a refrigerated perspex cube, in what Quinn calls "a sophisticated deep freeze". Pull the plug and it's one bloody mess.

Quinn has, to date, made six of these self-portraits, one every five years, sculptures that chart his ageing self. But this two-dimensional, hand-coloured pigment print needs no special life-support machine. Here, Quinn's purplish, facial expression against a blood-red background looks relaxed. Eyes closed, mouth firm, it's hyper real and the frozen blood has become the portrait's textured surface. Quinn says "art is out of control, and people don't like things that are out of control". And yet this work, created with extraordinary control, is as natural as the blood in your body.

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Quinn was born in London, in 1964, to a French mother and British father. He spent his early years in Paris and studied History and History of Art at Robinson College, Cambridge. He's made busts of bread dough that he baked and then cast in bronze; he's also used stainless steel and marble and cast Kate Moss in solid 18 carat gold, one of which, called Siren, at 50kg, is "the largest gold statue certainly since antiquity", says Quinn, "and probably ever".

Believing everyone is creative, Quinn says "that we can speak and think is the most unbelievable shocking thing in the world. Yet, it's completely normalised. So I don't really understand what shocking is". For Quinn, art captures everything in the world, "things that are beautiful, light and trivial, things that are heavy, dark and terrifying".

Blood for some may be dark and terrifying but this Self, using blood, no sweat, no tears, was inspired by Rembrandt's self-portraits and a cast of William Blake's face. Such an image becomes a meditation on mortality. The viewer contemplates the artist's frozen blood while his/her own blood is in full flow.

Quinn doesn't believe in perfection, "it destroys people's lives", but he does believe that "When you're looking at art, you should lose yourself. That's the whole point, that's why art is always in the present moment. Art is drugs for people who don't take drugs".

'Collectibles' at Solomon Fine Art, Dublin, until September 28 includes work by Marc Quinn, Lucian Freud, Henry Moore, William Scott, Elisabeth Frink, Rowan Gillespie, Patrick Heron, Sean Henry, Grayson Perry, Elizabeth Magill and others.

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