top of page


Peter Quinn

10 February - 4 March 2006

Click images for full artwork details

In NO PAINT, Peter Quinn has returned to the place where he began, as a maker of art furniture and sculpture from recycled metal with the new awareness of himself as a painter with no paint but light itself reflecting off already painted and weathered surfaces. Some of the work lives on the wall others need to sit on the floor but the same awareness of patina, embedded history, the vicissitudes of the climate and the play of fractured living light informs them.

Light is not the only thing at play, language is unleashed and Quinn's considerable spare wit finds expression in these constructions. They secrete puns and meaning slips and slides on the subtly rippled and finely scratched surfaces. The worn pre-painted metal, which he cuts and reconfigures is both the canvas and the paint, the support and the ornamentation, an entirely material thing in and of itself.

The objects he first made and exhibited at 24HR ART in 100% TRACY in 1995 and TABLEAU IMMEUBLAY 1996, were constructed and delineated with metal, drawn as much as welded and the play of light was in the sharp contrast of form and shape seen against and through shadow and light. The other element evident in these first works was wit and language games- Cyclone Settle, exhibited in 100% TRACY - a corrugated iron bench seat set on 1974 Holden Kingswood springs, with a welded steel back curlicued into a wave shape suggestive of a storm surge, played off the contradictions of settler history in the Top End- settles are customarily made of oak, not corrugated iron the ubiquitous vernacular Territory building material nor do they rest on that telling marker of suburban aspiration in Darwin in 1974, the Holden Kingswood. Moreover when you sat on it you could create a wobble, as unstable as the jerry built architecture of the place then.

Quinn's work between then and now - his second and third exhibitions - saw him move resolutely to the wall, to confine himself to two dimensions. In ITERATION at RAFT artspace in 2004, he used multiple found objects - rulers, pencils, tape measures- to create constructed mathematically precise collages, in a homage to his father who had recently died and bequeathed the son, his shed where they had grown up together making stuff. It was the discovery of his father's old tools and tape measures that had made Quinn want to create a memento mori. Formality, a reverence for precision and nostalgia were the tone of ITERATION, wit a mainstay of his earlier work, receded. However the patina of found materials had begun to exercise its own allure.

In DEAD CHEEKY at Grant Pirrie in 2004 Quinn abandoned the tape measures and rulers and recovered his passion for scavanging at the Berrimah Tip shop and at Darwin Non Ferrous Metal and the ear splitting pleasures of cutting up old road signs with a drop saw. Quinn studied pure maths and works as a television editor and camera operator so cutting up and reconfiguring road signs has a certain affinity with the geometrical precision of constructing patterns from scraps of found language and unleashed his considerable wit and feel for the telling juxtaposition.

Meanwhile he continued between exhibitions to make garden furniture from found objects - a collection of rusted shovels with the judicious application of the blow torch pierced eyes, mouths in their concave planes, and made masks of them and a pastoral choir assembled beneath a frangipani tree, while freestyle cut out steel bush chooks roamed the garden. Old chairs and tables were resurfaced with cut up road signs.

In NO PAINT, the series of Speed Chairs and the Slow Food table continues that preoccupation.

In NO PAINT, every work is a construction, whether its furniture or stands as a painting, united by a deep attention to the surface and the play of light on it. Words, numbers and geometric shapes make patterns and extrude meaning which is often witty but also sublime and abstract in the manner of Colin Mc Cahon or Mondrian. The pitted ,scratched, abraded, and pocked surfaces tell of lived history and resistance to entropy. Individual facets are like aerial views of land marked by time and climate. Subtle texture, fading and discolouration produce a softer palette and an elegiac tone, and signal a confidence and maturity in the work, a belief in what the eye has seen being conveyed directly as feeling to the viewer. Cleverness and technical achievement gives way to a sensibility that is sensitive to nuance and more expressively exposed. Love My way is both ambiguous and defensively witty but stands as a profound metaphor for the enduring quality of love itself, in all its manifestations. Feeling for the material releases feeling for what has been salvaged and a distinct individual aesthetic is revealed. Paradoxically in NO PAINT, without paint, sees Quinn comes as a painter for the first time.

— Essay by Suzanne Spunner

100% TRACY was a Members invitation show based on Cyclone Tracy linked by the use of corrugated iron. It included a signature work Pink Window by Rosalie Gasgoigne, who visted Darwin and spoke at the gallery and proved a subliminal inspiration for Quinn, to be revealed later on.

TABLEAU IMMEUBLAY was a group show of Darwin Art Furniture makers and included Quinn alongside Don Whyte and Franck Gohier

ITERATION and DEAD CHEEKY were joint exhibitions with Quinn's good friend, and fellow furniture maker, Don Whyte.

Suzanne Spunner is a playwright and writer on Visual Art who lives in Melbourne. She lived in Darwin for a decade until 1996, and curated TABLEAU IMMEUBLAY. She has been engaged with RAFT artspace since its inception and has followed the development of Peter Quinn's work with great interest.  

Exhibition coincided with Cory Surprise's exhibition at the RAFT gallery upstairs

bottom of page