Marc Quinn's Under the Volcano, Soufrire Hills is a sumptuous depiction of the bounty of nature. Flawless renderings of flowers-mostly orchids-appear alongside fruit, shiny cherry tomatoes and ripe and seductive strawberries which all hide behind an orchid's pink and purple petals, coalescing into a rich display of luxurious color. Set against a dark backdrop, the vibrant reds and yellows of the fruit and flowers exude an energy and vibrancy that electrify the surface of the canvas. Quinn's blossoms and fruits are depicted in a meticulous manner. This style recalls the tradition of still-life paintings, one of the most constant themes in art history. Over the centuries the genre has evolved from figurative representations to Vincent Van-Gogh's famous 1888 Sunflowers, in which he depicted various stages of bloom and decay. With his highly detailed rendition, Under the Volcano, Soufrire Hills becomes a contemporary take on this very traditional genre.
Flowers have been a central subject of Quinn's oeuvre and his practice of incorporating them into his work has evolved over a number of years. Continuously pushing the boundaries between art and science, he explores innovative techniques to produce his works, such as freezing various species of flora. These frozen sculptures were carefully preserved in a refrigerated container, thus stressing both the fragility of life, and man's desperate attempt to manipulate nature and time. His Flower paintings are a continuation of this theme, "I had begun to photograph the frozen flower installations and make prints from them" Quinn commented, "Then a few years later I began to make oil paintings of flowers. All the flowers in any given painting are bought on the same day at the flower market or from shops in London. Now London is a northern European capital and most of these plants wouldn't grow here together at any time of year. Somehow these paintings are about our disjointed and mediated relationship with nature and what is natural" (M. Quinn quoted in Marc Quinn - Myth, exh. cat., Verona, Casa di Giulietta, 2009, pp. 73 and 74).
This focal piece of Under the Volcano, Soufrire Hills is the majestic Fuchsia Orchid, a flower which holds a special meaning to Quinn: "Orchids are like perfectly evolved little sculptures in themselves, they're full of color, interesting shapes and beauty. Even though they are a plant's reproductive organs, they pun on human ones too. They make you realize it is color, life and sexuality that keep the world turning. They are a celebration of life. I like all kinds of flowers, irises, sunflowers and anthuriums are great but none are quite as good as orchids" (L. Bradley, "Marc Quinn on Orchids", Another Magazine, November 14, 2011).
In the earlier series of works referred to above, Quinn began exploring nature directly; his sculptural series Eternal Spring (1998) entailed dipping bloomed flowers in a vat of frozen silicone to create a sculptural still life, as was his subsequent installation Garden (2000) at the Fondazione Prada in Milan. These flowers, frozen in time at a very specific stage in their bloom, are evocative of Van-Gogh's fascination with the effects of time on his sunflowers. Under the Volcano, Soufrire Hills is strongly influenced by this work. This depiction of flora in an artificially impossible way-frozen in full bloom, never able to neither grow nor perish-is a unique interest of Quinn's and is epitomized in this painting.
An important member of the YBA (Young British Artists) movement of the 1980s, Quinn's work has been exhibited in a number of museums around the world including, Fondation Beyeler, Basel (2009), British Museum (2008), Tate Liverpool (2002), Fondazione Prada, Milan (2000), Tate Gallery, London (1995). Quinn has also participated in important group exhibitions and biennials including the 55th Venice Biennale (2013), Guangdong Museum of Art and Capital Museum Beijing, China (2006), the Gwangju Biennale (2004), the 50th Venice Biennale (2003), and the Victoria Albert Museum, London (2001).