Lorenzo Quinn: Giving A Hand to Modern Art
Talking about Lorenzo Quinn means not only (re)creating [or even crafting] a mental picture of human hands, but also getting absorbed in a halo of positivity through his jaw-dropping sculptures. For him, art is a universal language and his work is intended to unify people all over the world by breaking down any existing barriers. His latest try? Support, a giant installation set at Venice Biennale 2017.
A version of this exclusive interview first appeared in the pages of the 13th issue of ODDA Magazine.
According to your words, hands are clearly the most difficult part of the human body to reproduce and they transmit power. As an artist, what does the sleight of hand stir in you? Who or what is Lorenzo Quinn inspired by? Are these hands women’s, men’s or children’s?
It is a universal language. My whole art is intended to connect people, to really get to find what we are united by and not separated by. I try to be an optimistic and uniting artist. Through hands, as an isolated element, you cannot manage to define the race, nor the belief… you can see yourself reflected, and that is my intention. When I want to tackle universal matters, I tend to transmit the message only through hands. It is more straightforward and powerful.
My inspiration depends on the message I want to transmit and what I want to create. It can be anything: ongoing events, a book, experiences, talks with close people… I love to tell different stories with a hidden message. As for me, a beautiful artwork without any message is merely superficial. Not my style.
Regarding hands gender, it depends on what the sculpture tries to show and what is its goal. When there are many hands represented, I always try that the artwork shows women’s and men’s, searching for a balance. There is also a room for children ones. In my artwork Support, at Venice Biennale 2017, hands recreated are children’s because of what this figure represents: purity, innocence, future… that is everything.
Your sculptures, beyond their aesthetic appearance, disclose a positive and moral message that leads to an inner reflection. A personal art at a global scale that has to do with your inner passion for eternal values and true emotions, serving us as a reminder for what really matters in life. From your personal approach as a figurative sculptor, which one of these two elements predominates in your artistic vision: aesthetics or message?
Message is essential. I am very lucky to have been able to reach a ‘less is more’ key principle in my work. That is what somehow happened at Venice Biennale. Two giant hands rising from the Grand Canal and resting on an emblematic building as Ca’ Sagredo Hotel is. There is much more behind. If it only had been two hands with no context behind, it wouldn’t have been the same. For example, the artwork’s name also transmits a message. If instead of Support, the installation was named Drowning, the impact and reactions would have been the just opposite. Negative. Artworks need to be touching and straightforward. In other words, I prefer to be a home-cooking restaurant than a gourmet one. I want my art to be accessible to everyone, not only for a small elite. That is why the message has to be simple, no need for an art critic to explain it.
Due to the globalisation phenomenon, the whole world is now open to different fields such as Art. However, cultural differences play an essential role becoming a handicap at times. When it comes to your art and creativity, have you ever experienced any kind of restrictions when trying to introduce any artwork in any specific country?
Never. I feel very lucky for that to be honest. Indeed, I am one of the few artists with artworks showcased worldwide, even in East and Middle East countries. My work isn’t controversial. It tries to be universal, to unify people, to bridge the existing gap between them. Truth is that, due to cultural differences, artworks sold in Eastern countries may be, and are, different to the ones sold in the Western area. But that is not a problem.
How is Lorenzo Quinn’s creative process developed since the idea is born until it is finally executed? Could you please share with us the different stages involved? Does it follow a pattern or, instead, it comes from a brainstorming?
First of all, I need to know what I will be talking about, what is my ’topic’. Every artist has an inner way of working, and that is respectable, but I do need to know in advance what the story I want to tell is. I need to find the idea, the message to be transmitted. I am currently working in giant installations with a social message behind (such as climate change) and now I want to create another one to put an end to global violence. You know, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and so, I need to find an image expressing the unification of people that makes them closer and puts an end to violence in the world. It is not an easy task.
I try to keep an order when creating. I name my artworks first of all. The title helps me shape the story and, after that, I write a text. Bumping into different adjectives when crafting this piece makes me visualise the artwork, so I start sketching and everything follows…
Sculpture practically crossed your path when you were studying Fine Arts to become a surrealist painter. Apart from that, performing also knocked your door more than once. Do you believe in the interconnection of these three fields? What have you learned from every single one?
I had already deepened into the sculpture field when I started studying Fine Arts. I started as a painter, but at the NY Academy of Fine Arts I already had a basis on Sculpture. I was twenty two by then and had realised my passion for sculpture. I started drawing as every child does, but kept on doing that. From drawing I took the leap to painting, but truth is I have never studied painting, and that is a major error. I always say that having a basis in any field is essential. I never got a foundation in painting and I was lacking technique.
Sculpture was different, I studied that in-depth. Every single process involved when creating an artwork. If you have a strong technique, everything is much easier, you can let your creativity flow. No shortcuts allowed, you have to train yourself. Creativity is not enough. Artists such as Picasso and Miró had a large background behind their work. That is why they managed to create their art.
I liked cinema, I was even awarded as Best Breakthrough Artist for the Dalí movie (1991) and I had a future in that field, but I was not willing to suffer. However, I was looking for my place in that moment. Cinema is a teamwork. Everything is connected. It is far more complicated to make a good film than an good artwork if you have a technique. However, it is a very superficial field and I didn’t like that. Art remains forever. It is a long-distance race.
Becoming a figurative sculptor was your calling. How and when did you realise that? What does it make sculpture so special compared to painting? Are they incompatible?
A few people know I also tried to make my way in the music field. I sang and composed. I knew that my future had to be linked to the artistic world, but I didn’t know how to approach exactly. Painting, sculpture, cinema, music…? I was around twenty seven when I realized sculpture was ‘my thing’ and it was thanks to my wife, who has always supported me and encouraged me to take that decision and to ‘quit’ cinema. I have been doing this for thirty years so far. Sculpture and painting are not incompatible. At all. Look at Miguel Angel, a genius. However, in my personal case, my technical quality when painting is not comparable to the one I have for sculpture. So I decided to devote myself to this field. I paint, but as a hobby, just to relax and disconnect, as a means of escape.
‘Life is a wonderful journey’ as a leitmotiv. Where and how do you see yourself in twenty years’ time?
I would love to keep on doing the things I do now. Maybe bigger sculptures, large monuments (not only temporary installations, but permanent ones.) I have a lot of ongoing projects, sculptures… and these are the things I would love to see finished. Still many dreams to fulfil. However, above all, I want my family to be happy, to reach their goals. That is my foremost desire.
One of the foremost visual attractions at Venice Biennale 2017 was your artwork Support as a wake-up call for awareness regarding one of the main existing problems of the millennium: climate change. What role does Art perform in trying to put an end to social problems?
Art is a different approach. An image is so powerful. I didn’t expect the positive welcome Support has had. It was intended to be magnificent, but I really didn’t imagine its impact. Thinking about it afterwards, it is something straightforward with a clear message. People have found themselves reflected on the installation. Climate change is a reality, it is happening. It is part of the evolution of the Earth, but the problem is it is developing by leaps and bounds.
What is your personal opinion about?
What is the world you want for tomorrow? That is what we have to bear in mind. Knowing how to use our tools. Eating less meat, using hybrid cars, saving water, for example, can help us reach this goal. Just try to make different little things to help the environment.
– Mass tourism in large cities
Tourism in Venice, for example, is clearly massive. I set my installation in that city but in an artistic context: the Venice Biennale. I suggest setting a little and affordable toll for entering the city that can help preserve the area.
There is too much inequality to be honest. A huge breach. We need to be able to find a solution to distribute wealth worldwide. First World countries would need to do more to stop this. It is also linked to the current hate in the world. More hate – more distance among people – more poverty… it is a vicious circle. I am not a politician, nor an economist… but I am a world citizen and I see what is happening. And this needs to stop.
What is MAJOR for Lorenzo Quinn?
For me, MAJOR is my family. Spending time and experiences with them are the most for me. Everything I am is thanks to them.
Diana Soto is an editor at ODDA Magazine. Keen on writing, fashion, photography and art, she has made her dream job out of a lifelong passion.
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