The Human Presence, review by John P. O’ Sullivan, Ireland’s Sunday Times, Sunday 16th September, 2018
“My paintings are about places, but in fact I am going for the atmosphere”, Ann Quinn has said. The places she explores are her father’s farm in County Donegal, Dublin City where she lived for twenty years, and the woods of Illinois, where she had a recent residency. The massive bulk of a silage pit, a solitary drinker in a pub, and a jogger entering a lonely wood epitomise there distinct locations. She has certainly succeeded in creating atmosphere, and there is a bracing bleakness about her vision.
While the urban scene point towards alienation and loneliness, there is no respite when she heads into the countryside. The sinister trees, the agitated skies, the threatening reds and the blasted blacks suggest that nature is malign and dangerous. The human presence in paintings such as Jill Soderberg on Her Daily Walk is any and insignificant. Even her domestic scenes are fraught with unease and ambiguity.
My Parents Seen Through the Parlour Window is downright surreal. A benevolent looking woman looks fondly at the viewer while a man lies in his sick bed in the background, staring into the distance as if contemplating his diminishing future.
John P. O’ Sullivan.
5 star review by Aidan Dunne, Irish Times, 6th October 2016
There is a hyper-real quality to the paintings of Ann Quinn. She uses her own photographs as preparatory sketches and references and brings an enhanced clarity to what she sees and paints. Look closely and you will find amazing, almost microscopic levels of detail. Equally, you will encounter broadly brushed passages that seem virtually abstract.
Quinn has written about beginning each painting from pure abstraction. Often that paint is applied in thin glazes, and then suddenly you will find a bit of impasto sitting on the surface. Somehow she makes all these elements work perfectly well together, and virtually all of the 18 pieces in the show feel absolutely right.
That is no small feat, because each is distinctive and different. It’s a never just a case of applying a formula on any level. Quinn covers a lot of ground. The places where she has stood to look out over the world throughout the last year include Donegal, Dublin, Kildare and Farrera, a dramatically situated village high in the Catalan Pyrenees. She enjoyed a second arts residency there, and says it reminds her of her background in rural, agricultural Donegal.
Quinn has described her childhood home on the family farm as her first arts residency. She went on to study at NCAD but, following her sell-out graduation show in 2000, endured an unhappy spell when she neglected her work. She credits friend and contemporary Gillian Lawler with getting her back on track, and she has remained firmly there ever since.
Several paintings in the Taylor show are likely to stop you in your tracks. Analyse their component parts and it remains unclear how Quinn managed the magical feat of conjuring up the overall vision.
Quinn has said that she aims to get the atmosphere of a place. Her personality and sensibility shape her response. The strength of her work stems from the fact that she applies herself with great ability, rigour and integrity.
– Aidan Dunne
What Lies Beneath by Niall MacMonagle, Sunday Independent, 9th October, 2016
From where Ann Quinn grew up in East Donegal “you can see a glow from Derry City at night” but for Quinn her family farm was “a peaceful, separate valley away from the rest of the world”. The youngest of 10, she always felt the home place was magical and special. Her seven brothers all helped with farm work but the girls were allowed to daydream and Quinn loved to paint the world around her. As a child, her work, in pen and ink, was very detailed. “I’d draw every blade of grass” and this attention to detail has stood her in good stead when she went on to paint places in Iran, the Pyrenees , the Curragh or Irish towns. New work features detailed, textured images of streets at night, animals in fields, a flock of swans, a field of mushrooms. “My paintings are a visual diary of what’s going on in my life”.
Heaven is as Close as the Bottom of the Garden, a Christmas-Day-in-the-morning painting, glows with winter light. She loves December: “I like trees being bare; I like the silence. I get nothing out of summer”. And the setting for this work is her brother Martin’s farm, “across the filed from my parents”. Backlit, the trees cast shadows towards us across a field of delicate, lacy frost; bare branches are inked against a mother-of-pearl sky and those dazzlingly dramatic Christmassy reds against the hills of Donegal are ablaze. Once I connect with a spot”, says Quinn, “I stand there, stare” and such moments of intense observation “became a form of prayer”. Tiny things – “a bird might come, a leaf falls” – matter.
And that lyrical, positive title ?
At the convent in Letterkenny, Quinn’s art teacher, Sr. Mary Clenaghan, was a vital, encouraging presence. She lent her paints, encouraged her, gave her confidence and Sr. Mary often quoted her own mother’s belief that the bottom of the garden was an inexhaustibly beautiful place.
Quinn’s inspiration is everywhere. Seamus Heaney once wrote to her to say how glad he was his poems Oracle and Planting the Alder “got entangled in your imaginative roots and branches”. She’s rooted in Donegal but she always branches out.
– Niall MacMonagle
Emerging Artists Rival Big Names in RHA Annual Show, by Cristín Leach Hughes, Culture Magazine, Sunday Times, 07/06/2015
“a gorgeous Ann Quinn painting with a brilliant title: The Moonlit Existence of a Powerful Cow.”
Subtle Correspondence by Cristín Leach Hughes, Culture Magazine, Sunday Times, 30/06/13
There is a sharp, almost acidic quality to Ann Quinn’s paintings. Inspired by her childhood in rural Donegal, her landscapes are tinged with memory and personal associations. She paints silage under black plastic in the snow, a cockerel bowing his head to a pinkening sky, swans swimming on a dark lake, and trees seen through rain on a window pane. A long column of cows skirts the fields on the way back from milking on her father’s farm.
Elsewhere, trotting sheep cast shadows onto a surreally smooth white landscape under a yellow sky, or cows huddle in a frozen field with a sailing boat on the horizon. Stark images are made more acute by her occasionally off-kilter use of perspective. My Infinitesimal Dwelling, above, is a painting of a tiny outhouse in a black, red, yellow and beige field punctured by a single pylon.
Quinn paints with a lucid intensity that gives her compositions the unsettling quality of a dream.
– Cristín Leach Hughes
New Horizons, by Denise Ferran, Irish Arts Review Magazine, Summer Edition, June 2013
Ann Quinn’s world is internalized, enclosed and informed by personal memories, writes Denise Ferran ahead of the artist’s solo exhibition at the Taylor Galleries in June.
The colourful bustle of Temple Bar recedes as I enter the well-ordered Dublin studio of Ann Quinn. The evening sun illuminates the worked layers of pigment, beeswax and gesso on canvases, works for exhibition this summer at the Taylor Galleries, Dublin. I am immediately transported to her Donegal family farm in the townland of Listannagh, between St. Johnston and Raphoe, a farm where her father grew up and where Ann was born the youngest of ten children.
Verdant layers of paint depict this rich pastureland and what at first appears to be ditches enclosing the meadows crystalize into three score and more of Friesian cows in single file in My Father’s Cows making their way back down to the Burn Field after Milking Time. The title is reminiscent of the descriptive narratives given by Donegal artist Melita Denaro who first influenced Ann Quinn at the age of nineteen when they met at an exhibition at the Glebe Gallery, near Letterkenny when Quinn sold her first painting, while still a freshman at the National College of Art and Design. Meeting a more established artist like Denaro in 1997 inspiried Quinn to dedicate herself to her art and make Dublin her home after graduating from college in 2000.
Denaro is inspired by the Inishowen landscapes where she paints out of doors in all weathers, often incorporating the few cows from the neighbouring farm as they shelter from the Atlantic winds, against turbulent skies which clear into bursts of sunshine or an arching rainbow. By contrast Quinn’s world is internalized, enclosed and informed by personal memories which the viewer can enter through layers of pigment which are sanded off, repainted, scumbled and sprayed until the desired effect she seeks is achieved. One is reminded of Andrew Wyeth in his depiction of the enclosed world of the Olsen and Kuerner families and of his carefully constructed gesso surfaces and technical prowess.
The Burn Fields exhibited last Summer, depicts a scene from the back of the family farmhouse. The vista unveiled when her brother felled some fir trees and exposed a panorama of the immediate fields and the far horizon, beyond which a new world awaited the artist. The removal of the trees symbolically breaks down a childhood defence which protected against outside elements, allowing winds of change to penetrate the enclosed, secure space.
In Self Portrait, 2012, for the University of Limerick’s National Self Portrait Collection of Ireland, Quinn peers out, cautiously fixing her searching gaze on the viewer, the blue tones of her cardigan echoed in the colder, paler blues of the background, only alleviated by the red in her scarf. The carefully arranged pose and the meticulously constructed portrait is reminiscent of early Lucian Freud paintings but the persona of Quinn dominates in her truthful rendition.
The painting ‘Subtle Correspondence’ gives the exhibition it’s title. It captures a lone calf, caught in the heavy snowfall in the winter of 2009/10, isolated on top of the icy midden and in the foreground where the paint handling suggests angry waters, Quinn has introduced a solitary swan, an image transcribed from Dublin’s Grand Canal. The hazy horizon, which appears to stretch to infinity, is achieved by spraying inks, creating layer upon layer of cloud and sky. This treatment emphasizes the vastness of the landscape and the solitary predicament of the isolated calf and the single swan, a metaphor perhaps for the artist herself in her cell-like studio, alone with her memories but steadily ploughing her own path from East Donegal, enriching her work with images referenced by foreign travel in Iran, Mexico and residencies in Andalucia and the Pyrenees.
Quinn has had solo exhibitions at the Ashford and Cross Galleries in Dublin and the Mullan Gallery in Belfast and, in 2009, Quinn won the Hennessey Craig Award at the RHA and the K & M Evans Award in 2012. A review of her work by Aidan Dunne in the Irish Times, 2008, observed that ‘she is a representational painter within tightly defined parameters’.
– Denise Ferran
‘What Lies Beneath’, Niall MacMonagle, Sunday Independent, 10th June, 2012
Donegal artist Ann Quinn is known for her landscapes. She’s painted her native county, it’s bogs and skies and potato drills, she’s painted the Iranian desert, birds’ nests in winter trees on Kildare Street, and Quinn has just been awarded the K & M Evans Prize at this year’s RHA Exhibition.
This painting of her mother’s friend and neighbour is one of her very few portraits. It’s called Mary, once the most popular name in Ireland; even boys ( Gabriel – Gay – Mary Byrne) were given it as a middle name. It’s a name that evokes a long-ago Ireland of May altars and Corpus Christi processions.
Mary McLaughlin was born in 1935 and lived all her life in Donegal. She could be a benign nun but this kind gentle soul is a woman who must have known all the hoo-hah and commotion and worries of family life. Now 77, she is the mother of 12, has 35 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and, until her retirement 10 years ago, ran ‘Mary’s Bar’ in Ramelton for 35 years.
Here’s an open, friendly, lived-in, wrinkled face. Botox ? No, thank you. The smile is as natural as the cropped grey hair and the alert eyes behind the modern glasses look beyond the artist. Her expression and stance contain a quiet confidence. A plain soft grey background suits her wholesome presence. The cardigan and top in soft black with a simple decorated neck are quietly stylish. A single, lustrous crystal hangs on a delicate chain. Nothing here is bling bling. She’s the kind of woman whom you could never imagine saying, ‘Because I’m worth it !’
This paper with it’s 930,000-plus readers means that almost a million people will encounter Mrs McLaughlin this morning. A brief encounter. A private painting, this will never be shown in public but will hang on a wall in Donegal. Those who see the original will know that Ann Quinn has painted a life lived.
– Niall MacMonagle
Serious Work that will bring a smile to your face, Aidan Dunne, The Irish Times, March 25th, 2009
Ann Quinn’s paintings in Different Silences, her exhibition at the Ashford Gallery are all related to landscape and are all quite modest in scale. They are made with a nice, deft touch that bespeaks a long careful process of development as well as natural ability. While quite diverse in literal subject matter, they are also of a piece. Quinn is after something specific, something common to all the individual works. She has given some indication as to what that something might be.
In the past she has referred to a childhood dream in which fields close to her Donegal home were transformed into an ocean and, in similar spirit, though as an adult, of stepping outside of a tent one night in Africa to find a dazzling richness of stars above her. Mostly, she observed, it was cloudy, and her paintings are a bid to recapture that moment of unexpected clarity and wonder. This quest sets her off searching not only geographically, but also at the edge of visibility. She avoids formulaic views and is often drawn to the sky or to oblique and unusual angles. As with many painters and visual artists generally, she is particularly intrigued by what cannot be seen.
Her pictures are imbued with a radiant light. Glittering Starbirds offers an expanse of sparkling water, for example. Time and again she constructs an image in such a way that a series of almost random looking marks, like the pools of white pigment in Melnik, suddenly assume a strong referential quality, as in the work of Elisabeth Magill.
One can see the logic of the tactic for Quinn, because she wants to maintain that either-or-tension, leaving the question open but at the same time gently prompting us to make the perceptual leap into recognition. Her paintings are all very well made, considered and genuinely meditative.
– Aidan Dunne
Expressions of past tranquility, Aidan Dunne, The Irish Times, January 23rd, 2008
At the Cross Gallery, Ann Quinn’s Autumn in Middle East, Summer in West features an unlikely conjunction of locations: travels in Iran and a residency at Glenveagh National Park, Donegal. Given the geographical distances and differences, the uniform look of the work is disconcerting, and even intriguing. Is there equivalence between the two sites? Not really, but Quinn’s carefully calibrated mode of representation wins out over the local difference.
That is, she is a representational painter within tightly defined parameters. She is greatly influenced by photography but her images are not photographic as such. She likes the smoothness and impassivity of the photographic surface, particularly when burnished and polished in the virtual reality of cyberspace, and on one level her paintings are as blandly even in tone as stylized computer games.
Yet, in a way that recalls Elizabeth Magill, she likes to muddy the representational waters.
She interrupts the smooth surfaces with various blemishes and interruptions that, once we’ve become conscious of them, undercut the illusion our eyes so readily accept. With similar effect, what at first glance comes across as a photographically true account of clouds turns out, on closer inspection, to be nothing like a cloud at all, and much more like abstract mark making. Her paintings depend on this flickering between seamless pictorial illusionism and sly reminders that we are looking at hand-made contrivances.
They work because she a distinctive visual sensibility. A couple of the Iranian landscapes are tremendously atmospheric renderings of cities viewed from distant heights at dusk. Though small, the paintings have a real sense of scale and distance.
Elsewhere everything is deliberately foreshortened. As though we are stalking deer in Glenveagh and are pressed into the earth, we just see a fringe of bracken and, above, a vast expanse of sky. A mood of still quietness pervades virtually all of her pictures.
– Aidan Dunne
Circa Online Review, by Laura McGovern, 2008