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The portfolio Marble was created from a group of eight sculptures Quinn produced in 1999-2000 entitled Peter Hull, Selma Mustajbasic, Jamie Gillespie, Alexandra Westmoquette, Tom Yendell, Catherine Long, Stuart Penn, Helen Smith: Group Portrait. The sculptures are portraits of men and women who were born with physical disabilities or have had limbs amputated due to accidents or illness. Quinn had previously made several sculptures using fragments cast from his own body, as in The Etymology of Morphology 1996 (T07239), or his body deformed through sculptural process in No Visible Means of Escape IV 1996 (T07238), before he was inspired to work with actual physical deformity. Looking at fragmented classical sculptures in the British Museum, he wondered how viewers would respond to bodies that had been damaged during their lifetime rather than after being transformed into objects through artistic representation. He explained:
It’s about the difference between art and life. Also about inside and outside and how people impute an inside to someone from a reading of their outside ... Traditionally marble is the medium of cultural and social acceptance and celebration ... the marble is used ironically and non-ironically at the same time. The sitters are heroes who have conquered their own interior worlds, and yet disabled people are invisible culturally, in art history. I wanted to celebrate them and use the medium in its original way as well.
(Quoted in Marc Quinn, p.60.)
Quinn contacted sporting associations in order to find disabled people with bodies that were well developed and maintained. He cast each person in plaster before Italian craftsmen copied the casts in the whitest possible marble, selected to represent a kind of Platonic perfection. He commented: ‘this marble, which comes from Macedonia, is like the idea of marble. It’s even bad taste, beautiful in a way that’s almost nauseating ... I wanted it to be absolutely clean, to be super real, hyper-real.’ (Quoted in Marc Quinn 2002, [p.39].) The subjects are depicted in semi-heroic attitudes, the result of a compromise between the model’s need for comfort and the artist’s requirement for a dynamic, positive pose that would highlight the strength of the character portrayed.
For the print portfolio, eight photographs taken by the photographer Attilio Maranzano and the artist were screenprinted on large sheets of 410gsm paper. The figures fill the pages and vary in size, depending on their disability. The large scale of the paper emphasises their monumental appearance. Each figure is printed in matt black and white embedded in a glossy background. The four standing figures are shown against black and the four sitting figures appear against a creamy-yellow white. The portfolio includes a numbered colophon page and was produced in an edition of forty-five of which Tate’s copy is the tenth. It was proofed and editioned at Coriander Studio, London and published by Charles Booth-Clibborn under his imprint The Paragon Press, London.
Helen Esther Smith lost the lower parts of her limbs on 27th December 1997 when she contracted Meningococcal Septicaemia. Initial amputation was followed by further amputations in November 1998 as a result of catching the hospital infection MRSA. She is represented sitting with her upper legs splayed in a V. She raises her right arm to head level stretched out straight in front of her. Her left arm is raised and bent to shoulder level. Viewed from the front, as in this print, her pose suggests that she is reaching towards somebody. Viewed from the side, it evokes archery or some kind of dynamic action.
Marc Quinn, exhibition catalogue, Fondazione Prada, Milan 2000, pp.15-16, 58-61 and 170-209, p.200, reproduced pp.201-3
Marc Quinn, exhibition catalogue, Tate Liverpool 2002, [pp.38-40]
Marc Quinn: Marble, publisher’s pamphlet, Paragon Press, London 2002, reproduced in colour