Ged Quinn

Spike Island

Ged Quinn’s show at Tate St. Ives last year was called “Utopia Dystopia.” This one was “The Heavenly Machine,” a tag that likewise carries the infernal and the divine in equal measure. Quinn’s work contributes, along with that of artists like J. P. Munro and Nigel Cooke, to the current reimagining of history painting’s contemporary viability. He shares a sense of perplexity with Munro, though his paint handling and figuration are much more precise; and his disturbing mixture of visual elements and references is akin to Cooke’s compositional range, though Quinn’s are more overtly humorous.

The action in Quinn’s canvases may be puzzling, quixotic, or just plain bizarre. In Asleep by the Light of Glow Worms, 2005, for example, Joseph Beuys sits with his hare in the time machine from the 1960 film of H. G. Wells’s novel, attended by angels from a painting by Caspar David Friedrich. Such scenarios,

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