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David Quinn 'Cloghan'

Ani­ma Mun­di are delight­ed to present Cloghan’, a phys­i­cal solo exhi­bi­tion of small scale, palimpses­tic paint­ings by David Quinn.

"What does it mean? I don’t really know!” Says David Quinn when I speak with him about his work. He pauses momentarily. “It's not meaningless though.”

Quinn lives and works in Shillelagh in County Wicklow, Ireland and his small scale, palimpsestic paintings are usually titled in series’ after evocative place names nearby. However, it would be inaccurate to assume that these paintings are intended to be viewed as a minimalist, quasi-abstracted representation of the Irish landscape. He concedes however that perhaps they could contain an essence of place, in the way that we all contain within us the suffused essence of our own experience.

Quinn is an artist who discovers through the act of doing. “We need rituals” Quinn claims. He tells me about his beloved late Grandmother, and how he used to watch her patiently knit for hours in front of a glowing fire. The calm prosaic process of repetition became for her and him, a meditative act. The honest cycle of doing, repeating and growth akin to the honest work of a fishermen who makes and mends his nets. Again, we return to the word ‘essence’ as the paintings undoubtedly contain within them the same ritualistic routine where patience and perseverance is key.
All of Quinn's miniature paintings are now made in one of two sizes, which he returns to again and again. The majority of works are 8 x 5 inches, a scale familiar to us through our relationship with books or more recently, digital tablets, and is perhaps the perfect size for Quinn to best experience the intimate relationship between head and hand. It is a scale and form that also reflects Quinn’s interest in orthodox icons, which may also elucidate the prayer-like surface quality of the work. However, Quinn refers to them as ’notebook’ scale, where he approaches each piece as if approaching a diary, notating, getting it down, erasing, repeating, losing, finding and so on, each layer is a page, studied, developed, and concealed through planning and intuition - built like layers of sedimentary rock. Time spent in contemplation with honest endeavour becomes encased within each panel. The process may not be precious, but each investment becomes so through the devoted act of doing with freedom and sensitivity. The cumulative nature of his practice is also enforced as series' of works begin to grow. Individual paintings become part of a collection of works that all begin to inter-relate. A unit part of a greater whole like words in a sentence, notes in a tune or hours in a day.

We continue to discuss the focus that can be attained through patience, practice, and ritual. Quinn’s fascination with Japanese philosophy and spirituality extends beyond an inherent interest in the wabi sabi aesthetic which can be seen in his work and incorporates the practice of meditation. Once aware of these eastern influences it is difficult to avoid their mark made upon the work. Much of Quinn’s talking is about the process of making a painting or a way of working which he prescribes to - an honest graft - losing yourself in a days work - but this is the journey and not the destination. Or perhaps as Quinn reminds me it is just “a finger pointing at the moon.”