Ged Quinn (b. 1963)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Ged Quinn (b. 1963)

Little House on the Borderland

Ged Quinn (b. 1963)
Little House on the Borderland
signed and dated 'Ged Quinn 2006' (on the stretcher)
oil on linen
72 x 108¾in. (183 x 276cm.)
Painted in 2006
Wilkinson Gallery, London.
London, Wilkinson Gallery, Ged Quinn: My Great Unhappiness Gives Me a Right to Your Benevolence, 2007-2008, no. 26 (detail illustrated in colour, p. 44 and illustrated in colour, p. 45).
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

Lot Essay

A sophisticated conflation of historical styles and cultural archetypes, Little House on the Borderland is a richly atmospheric painting characteristic of Ged Quinn's unique imagining. Set on the shore of a deep turquoise sea, framed by lofty trees that billow into delicate clouds of russet and golden foliage, lies a half buried, derelict building. Rising from the choppy waters behind it, just visible against the pale mauve mountains that lie on the horizon, are the turrets and masts of a seventeenth-century shipping port. Yet all is not as it seems. Within the tumbledown interior of the building, lie remnants of the twentieth century - a tattered dentist's chair, a bookshelf, an abandoned, generic office chair. A seventeenth-century portrait of a man in an elaborate wig hangs on one of the derelict walls, but a red crucifix has been branded onto his face. In the immediate foreground of the picture a strange hybrid animal, half sheep, half dog, stands in the bow of a shabby blue rowing boat.

At first glance, Little House on the Borderland is the quintessential Arcadian landscape; indeed, it directly quotes from Ariadne and Bacchus on Naxos (1656) by Claude Lorrain, who John Constable once described as 'the most perfect landscape painter the world ever saw all is lovely - all amiable - all is amenity and repose' (J. Constable, quoted in R.B. Beckett, John Constable's Discourses, Ipswich 1970, pp. 52-53). Yet integrated within Claude's pastoral idyll is an iconic piece of American conceptual art; Robert Smithson's Partially Buried Woodshed, made in the grounds of Kent State University, Ohio, in January 1970. Consisting of an old woodshed half covered by truckloads of earth, Smithson intended the shed to break up slowly, and for it to be eventually reclaimed by the landscape. Later that year, however, it became an unofficial memorial to the four students killed by National Guard soldiers during an anti-Vietnam student protest on the university campus. The incident sparked protests and demonstrations that arguably helped shift public opinion against the continuation of the war. The words 'MAY 4 KENT 70' were anonymously painted onto the side of the woodshed, and the work came to symbolise for many the breaking of the political system. Although Smithson once said that he hoped that the piece would not only go on to decay but also would acquire its own history, in 1984 the shed was cleared, leaving only the concrete foundations.

In his art historically and technically meticulous style, Quinn explores the idea, eloquently articulated by historian Simon Schama, that 'landscapes are culture before they are nature; constructs of the imagination projected on to wood and water and rock' (S. Schama, Landscape and Memory, London 2004, p. 61). Reincarnating Smithson's work, Little House on the Borderland pays homage to the original intention of Partially Buried Woodshed by placing it, quite literally, within the historical landscape. Set in Claude's calm, idealised surroundings, the evidence of entropy and decay are made even more obvious. By creating a strange dystopia, Little House on the Borderland draws attention to the fact that landscape has long been used as a site onto which we project our desires. Juxtaposing the banal and sinister symbols of the everyday with the paradise evoked by a seventeenth century visionary, Quinn reminds us that the undesirable sides of humanity will forever be accompanied by its hopes and dreams.

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