His walls are lined with alphabetised books on every subject from Botany to Gandharan art. His studio is clean and bright, punctuated with rare Buddhist sculptures which are interspersed amongst his own carefully positioned artworks. His manner is witty and upbeat. And his appearance is confident, clever and topped with a stylish hat. Yes, this is Marc Quinn. One of the most famous living British artists opens the door to his East London studio to welcome Lock Kresler, Specialist of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s. After exploring all corners of the recently refurbished studio, the two sit down for a serious art discussion about flowers, skulls and extreme body modification.
Frozen elements, such as blood, flowers and other organic materials, have been a consistent theme in your work. What gave you the inspiration for your ‘Flower Paintings’?
I started the Flower Paintings in 2007 – they come from frozen sculptures and are a reflection of humans’ relationships with nature and the planet. I remember visiting a flower market one day and noticing how all these flowers that shouldn’t be available at the same time could be purchased so easily in one place because they are flown in from halfway around the world. It perfectly illustrates how human desire constantly reshapes nature’s limitations. The fact that these flowers are always available to us is artificial and unnatural. The other side to these works is that they are a celebration of colour, life and sensuality. I always buy my flowers myself and arrange them as though I were creating a sculpture. So in a sense, the final product is like the painting of a sculpture.
We are offering one of your paintings, Tea in the Sahara, in the forthcoming auction at Christie’s. This is a particularly unique example because it features a skull. What can you tell us about the inclusion of this additional element?
There are only about a dozen of these paintings which feature a skull and a lot of people actually don’t notice it for a very long time. It was just a natural evolution from the original concept. The composition is not that different from a classical memento mori painting. The skull depicts the human condition in its most decomposed state, whilst the flowers are captured in their most vibrant moments. The juxtaposition creates a rather poignant message: You may end but life goes on… Nature always triumphs.
You recently completed this series of hyperrealist Flower Paintings. What are you working on now?
Yes, I have stopped the realist pieces and moved on to create some black and white flower paintings, and another series in reversed colours. The black and white versions have a very strong sculptural element to them. Meanwhile the reverse or ‘negative’ images are pictures from a topsy turvy world. They are like drugs for people who don’t take drugs. The forms tend to become other things and you have to really pick apart the painting to decipher what you are looking at. I started the negative paintings about a year ago, when the world seemed to be turning upside down. I think I will always create Flower Paintings, but will keep finding new ways to develop them. I have also been devoting a lot of time to a new series of sculptures which will appear for the first time in my new show at White Cube.
Do you have a favourite flower to work with?
Orchids are very special. They’re extremely sculptural and object-like. At the same time they are full of sensuality. They’re like pornography that your granny can look at. It’s a beautiful paradox.
What has been your greatest inspiration as an artist?
I love ancient art. I’m also a huge fan of Michelangelo, Picasso and Boetti... I’m an omnivore. I just take it all in and some of it sticks!
What would you most like to be remembered for?
Hopefully something I haven’t made yet. The best is yet to come!
POST-WAR AND CONTEMPORARY ART DAY AUCTION
1 July 2010
London, King Street
Post-War & Contemporary Art