[Originally published in The Dallas Morning News]
The museum material accompanying Ged Quinn’s work states that it invokes Claude Lorraine and Jacob van Ruisdael. That’s certainly true. It’s also layered with myth, an outré brand of theology, dark beauty and personal dream-like imagery. It’s “like” a lot of things but it’s also mind-bustingly brand new. It takes the lineage of Romanticism and unfurls it so far that it stretches to the rim of the world.
Melancholia Simplex is huge in every sense of the word; it measures roughly 6.5 x 8 feet. It’s also complicated even before museumgoers move past the name. “Melancholia” has a long and rich history in European art and literature and “simplex” implicates both a geometrical shape and a riff on a psychological “complex.” (That’s for openers.) The painting depicts a chair laden with books, a maimed body, an icon, an oddly luminescent forest scene, a dead deer and a precarious shelter.
Birth, decay and the broad scope of the natural world are treated in ways that defy typical explanations – and that’s the point. The work is intentionally fraught with odd narratives and allusions that are wildly disparate. Quinn’s pieces operate effectively as triggers for viewers to bask in their own narrative concocted from the artist’s wickedly brilliant trove of images.
A handful of smaller works are a combo of beautifully rendered trays, cups and utensils along with cakes in the shape of World War II bunkers. They Covet to Eat but Cannot Digest is less than two feet square but it’s piled with import. Gleaming apples on a board accompanied by a knife and a ceramic cup seem innocuous. Look more closely and the cup sports a demon-like, open-mouthed figure that’s in ghastly opposition to a lovely sip of tea. The cake is reminiscent of grandma’s house – until you realize it’s fashioned to resemble a military structure. It’s a baked version of the place from which gunners assail the enemy.
Admittedly this show is odd and irreverent. It’s also spectacular and signals still another brand of genius that emanates from the Brit’s “sceptered isle.”