Since his first exhibitions in the early 1990s British artist, Marc Quinn, has forged a rich and complex art practice incorporating a wide range of media and exploring themes such as nature, beauty, hybridity and genetic manipulation. Flowers have been a recurring subject in the artist’s practice and this series, Portraits of landscapes 2007, have their genesis in Quinn’s 2000 installation, Garden, held at the Prada Foundation in Milan. In this work, the artist selected a vast number of flowering plants from a range of diverse habitats and, contrary to the natural order of things, displayed them coexisting in the same environment. Exhibited in an industrial-sized refrigerator, the artist used liquid silicon to maintain the garden at its most luxuriant state. Although no longer living, Quinn’s flowers were kept suspended in a state of perpetual beauty where the passage from life to death was indefinitely deferred. A seminal work by Quinn, Garden offered profound comment on Western society’s preoccupation with youth and beauty and its predilection for artificial means of disguising the effects of ageing and decay.
In 2004, Quinn executed a new body of work titled Winter garden in which tropical plants were depicted growing in a bed of snow. Subsequently Quinn embarked upon a series of large-scale, hyper-realistic paintings of flowers. The enormous scale and intensely saturated colour of these works transform the flowers into exaggerated impressions that are more closely aligned to the gloss and surface of advertising than the actual plants from which they are derived. The series of prints, Portraits of landscapes, are a significant new development in this strand of Quinn’s practice and are based on details of these large paintings. The title alludes to the age-old genres of portraiture and landscape while the subject matter also references the genre of still-life painting. With these works Quinn draws a parallel between the discipline of painting (and its capacity for idealising its subject) and the artificial, unattainable images of youth and beauty that saturate contemporary Western society.