by Vidur SethiJan 24, 2022
Nature and its diversity have been celebrated and venerated at regular intervals of history across the fields. More often than not, the nostalgic lamentation of the loss of natural abundance in the face of urbanity grips the creative minds that refuse to see the inexorability of gentrification. Not rueing over this, but claiming a path of recognition of bountiful nature and development is the art practice of Belgian contemporary painter and sculptor, Arne Quinze. The colours and motifs of, be it painting, sculpture or installation by Quinze, draw a great depth of inspiration from nature. Known for his larger-than-life installations in city centres such as Rio de Janeiro, Mumbai, New York, Shanghai, Brussels, Moscow, Paris, Quinze deftly brings the cityscape a step closer to the beauty of nature to open the new world of possibilities and awareness around diversity and urbanisation.
Since his early days as a graffiti artist, Quinze acutely understood the importance of bringing art to the public. The true interaction lies in the open spaces, which facilitate conversations on social diversity and cultural inclusivity. It remains nearly unachievable in the restrictive walls of the white cube. Quinze prefers to see the “cities as open-air museums”. In an interview with STIR, the Belgian conceptual artist explains, “Sounds like an idealistic dream, but I am striving to make it come true.” Questioning the barrier of exclusivity around art and its experience, he adds, “Why to hide art behind a facade for a selected group?” As an artist, Quinze confirms that it his duty to step outside the educational walls of universities and museums. “Our public space, where cars and grey walls reign, is the environment in which I engage with my artworks to help nature reclaim its diversity. Art has a positive influence on people and their personal development: it broadens their horizons and makes them more tolerant of differences in society. Art in public spaces creates dialogue and debate.”
Last year, Frieze Sculpture returned to The Regent’s Park that featured 12 sculptural installations by international artists including Arne Quinze, Patrick Goddard, Kalliopi Lemos, among many others. The exhibition, organised at a time when the public was allowed to visit the open spaces, gave the artist an opportunity to once more nurture the relationship between nature and city-dwellers. The element of incongruity – in terms of the shape of the vertical sculpture Lupine Tower by Quinze - hints at the wilderness dominated in nature. The artist with the sculpture suggests the thriving potential of nature to reclaim the city.
If Quinze observes nature as a rich repository of resources, he is equally aware of the ruthless mining of its resources in the hands of humans to meet their demands. The sculpture Scarlet Natural Chaos standing on the Potomac Riverside in Washington DC is the epitome of similar thoughts. For this sculpture, the artist mentions, “I was inspired by the Scarlet Oak. This bright red coloured tree has deep roots in the history of Washington DC and reinforces the enduring cultural link between civic symbolism and natural imagery. This is a symbol of Washington and is very rare. When the earth gets two degrees warmer the Scarlet Oak will disappear completely.”
As Quinze works on a variety of sculptures at different places with multiple materials, he succinctly mentions the process and materials, “Before each installation, a thorough site investigation is carried out, which can take up to four years. Typical elements and the flora and fauna of the place are thoroughly investigated. There is a whole process of models, studies and drawings and often starting over again until I am completely satisfied.” Through the major part of his practice, Quinze has worked with natural materials, “This used to be recycled wood, but now I mainly use aluminium. It gives me the most freedom to create, it is the closest thing I can do to creating the forms of nature.”
Quinze and his team are now working on two large installations, 40 m and 150 m long respectively, in Cairo. For over 25 years Quinze has created work intending to encourage people to see the world around them with “new insights”. He is affirmative of the fact, “Everything is possible, but we must not forget our origins”. Human intervention has led to the loss of “30 per cent of our flora and fauna” since the birth of the artist. Quinze, a 50-year-old artist from Belgium, emphasises, “It is therefore crucial that we give nature a place back in our cities and communities.”
Given the advent of technology and soaring global warming, it will be worth watching how the artist attempts to reduce the effects of carbon footprinting involved around his upcoming sculptural installations at the places such as Dubai, Amsterdam, São Paulo and Shanghai.