Ged Quinn Edits the Past

Edition Review

  • Ged Quinn, Utopia Dystopia (2011)

  • Seven etchings with hand-coloring and lithography, 52 x 60 cm. Edition of 48.. Printed by Michael Taylor and Simon Marsh at Paupers Press, London, published by the Paragon Press, London. £12,000.
Ged Quinn, Hans Are You Alive? from the series Utopia Dystopia (2011).

Ged Quinn, Hans Are You Alive? from the series Utopia Dystopia (2011).

Ged Quinn’s prints reprise a selection of his paintings, but they are not simply reproductions. Instead they make playful use of the strategies of reproductive printmaking, echoing and enlarging on Quinn’s painting practice of appropriation and pastiche. All the prints here—and their painted counterparts—are inspired by and adapt the work of artists such as Claude Lorrain and the painters of the Hudson River School. In some, contemporary dystopias are patched seamlessly into Arcadian landscapes. In Jonestown Radio, Claude’s sylvan landscape adapted from his View of La Crescenza (1648-50) becomes the setting for a structure that alludes to the Jonestown massacre in Guyana, where deluded followers of the messianic cult leader Jim Jones killed themselves on his orders. In others, such as The Fall, irruptions of modernity puncture the classical idyll; here the body of poet and dramatist Antonin Artaud (theorist of the ‘theatre of cruelty’), falls from the sky into a landscape borrowed from Claude’s Landscape with Abraham Expelling Hagar (1668); below him is the burnt-out shell of Thomas Edison’s Black Maria, the world’s first purpose-built film production studio, littered with drawings and spells created by Artaud in the last anguished year of his life when he was assailed by psychosis.Confused chronologies and multiple associations result from these violent juxtapositions of past and present, fantasy and reality, idealism and disillusion.

The prints employ etching and lithography to achieve the appearance of 18th- and 19th-century engravings; artists such as Claude were of course much-reproduced in this way for collectors and connoisseurs. Quinn adapts the graphic language of these earlier prints; not only are they printed in sepia tones, they are titled in curlicued copperplate script within the plate. To add a further layer of verisimilitude to his clever conceit, he has printed the paper with yellowish stains and the reddish-brown marks of foxing (a common problem afflicting 18th- and 19th-century prints.) Employing all the strategies of his painting practice, overlaid with the reproductive capacities of print, he introduces a further level of slippage between chronologies—offering overlapping trompe l’oeil effects that encompass the physical character of the prints as well as their iconography.