Arne Quinze's work can't be labelled or pigeonholed as it is conceived as suspended between art and architecture. So far he has designed public installations and outdoor sculptures often employing just one material - wood - to create artworks with a social twist about them, hoping to bring people together while transforming neighbourhoods and cities. Six years ago Quinze started a new project mainly focused on painting that he unveiled in a solo exhibition last Saturday at the Maruani Mercier Gallery (Kustlaan 90, Knokke, Belgium; until 14 May 2018). Entitled "My Secret Garden" the event features a series of large floral paintings in bold and bright electric colours, plus an 18-carat rose gold and 18-carat palladium white gold abstract sculpture representing chaos and created in collaboration with Veridor.
The main inspiration for his flower series came from a dramatic realisation, pondering about the damages we have done to our planet. "I was shocked to learn that, since I was born in 1971, we, as humans, have managed to destroy one-third of the flora and fauna," Quinze states in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition. "As an artist I consider it my duty to use my art to call for a better balance between culture and nature. I am trying to encourage a conversation that will change the way we think and ask questions. I want to raise the awareness of the viewing public, resulting in a more beautiful and diverse society."
Quinze's first step in the creative process wasn't a white canvas, but a personal quest that involved a physical return to the land. The artist planted indeed a flower meadow comprising over 4,000 plants and flowers around his house to study better the power of plants and the dynamics of nature. He then observed the metamorphosis the flowers and plants went through in the different seasons, but also the relationship existing between different plants and the effects they may have on human beings.
When Quinze started painting his passion for fluorescent tones (that derives maybe from his early career as a graffiti artist in the streets of Brussels...) was reunited with his interest in urban environments and he came up with works that evoke the Impressionists but that feature three-dimensional copper leaves blooming out of the canvases. The copper in a way symbolises Quinze's interest in urbanisation and industrial materials, but also represents a call to all of us, a message asking visitors to make sure nature, technology and industry can co-exist together in our life and on planet Earth.
There is also a difference between Quinze's urban installations and this series: with the former Quinze wanted to bring people together; in this case he hopes the paintings will encourage visitors to look into their own inner selves and discover their own Secret Garden, a place where they can take refuge from the chaos and confusion of our relentless times or just unplug for a while from the digital world that is turning us into virtual tech zombies. The exuberant shades Quinze used and the technique he employed may not be appreciated by art purists, but the diversity of tones and the way the compositions spread over several canvases may become rather popular in more contemporary contexts such as fashion shows or department store windows.
In a way, the more you look at some of the paintings, the more you know that Quinze may end up being co-opted sooner than he may expect (after all a while back we had a fashion comparison with one of his works...) by some fashion designer on the lookout for visually appealing works and collaborations with cool artists.