The contemporary British artist’s ‘Prismatic Labyrinth’ series offers a thought-provoking social commentary on identity in the 21st century, in a highly unexpected way.
Making a statement has never really been an issue for Marc Quinn. The artist first made waves in the art world back in the Nineties with his self-portrait, ‘Self’, which was crafted from 10 pints of his own blood in a frozen silicone mould. Because of the nature of Quinn’s chosen material, the sculpture is reliant on electricity to maintain its form, thus making a statement about contemporary society’s need to always be plugged in, switched on and connected. Not bad for an opening gambit, right?
Since then Quinn’s continued to make work that acts as a social commentary, covering everything from man’s dependency on, and troubled relationship with, technology (see ‘Garden’) to beauty and the widely-held desire for transformation (check out his sculptures ‘Alison Lapper Pregnant’ and ‘Siren’). Clearly, if you want to enter into a discourse about what it means to be human in today’s world, Marc Quinn may well be the artist to speak to.
His latest work isn’t shy about saying something about current issues in society either. Through ‘Prismatic Labyrinth’, a trio of limited-edition prints, Quinn considers the tensions between the biological and the man-made – specifically, how one of our unique human markers has become a tool of surveillance culture.
Drawing on the paintings and bronze casts that make up Quinn’s ‘Labyrinth’ series, the prints alter the way that we see our fingerprints. In his hands, the labyrinthine pathways that make up the tips of our fingers – and which are almost certainly unique to each of us – become a form of portraiture; the vitality and marbled colours within each line, or pathway, hint at the stories and experiences of the person who the prints belong to. But, because of their abstract nature, we can only guess at their meaning.
The longer you think about these prints and what they represent, the easier it is to get drawn into (and lost in) a maze of questions: how much can we really know from a set of fingerprints? Are we talking about the labyrinths that mark out our fingertips, or the complex networks of society? Maps of our identity, or mapping out where we’ve been and what we’ve done? All of these seem quite relevant if you consider the contactless nature of contemporary society. As Quinn himself says ‘we (have) become encoded into a unique abstraction which is also profoundly figurative.’ Basically, we’re teetering on the edge of a rabbit hole of questions, many of which you may want to ponder when you see the prints in person, and some of which you may not want to tackle at all! So let’s step back to the artworks themselves.
These thought-provoking talking points, are also interesting in terms of the process used to create them; the trio of giclee prints play with the tactile nature of their subject matter. Each of the edition of 60 is finished with a spot glaze, which is screen printed over the digital image to create a subtle ridge, similar to those found on our own fingertips. It all sounds very simple but, as we’ve seen, there is so much more to these prints than meets the eye.