Alexandria sculptor Maureen Quinn has just returned from a tour of Europe where she exhibited one of her most famous collections, The Hunt, at the South African Embassy in Berlin, as well as in Sweden.
Quinn, 83, credited the exhibition taking place to the involvement of South African ambassador to Germany Stone Sizani, whose family is from the same small town Quinn has called home for the past four decades.
“I met Stone back in the ‘90s when he was still in the area. My agent suggested I take my series to Germany and when the embassy heard about the project, Stone said he wanted me to bring them for the Freedom Day celebrations and insisted that I exhibit at the embassy,” Quinn said.
“I was lucky enough in that he liked to have it and I was lucky enough to have SAA-sponsored flights for the trip. DB Schenker transported the items from Cape Town to Berlin,” she said.
“We were there on April 27 and there was a lovely celebration. From there I went to exhibit in a small town called Neustadt, near Hamburg, for three weeks and after that, I went to Helsingborg in Sweden where my artwork has been since June 9,” Quinn said.
The renowned artist, who has been making sculptures professionally since 1954, said she received a good response from the exhibitions and even made the local papers.
“I took 14 bronze sculptures altogether. The Hunt is a series which I did during the ‘90s and I completed the last one in 1999.
“It’s all about man’s inhumanity towards his fellow man, greed, wanting more and more, and also how in the process of greed he destroys the environment,” Quinn explained.
She added each sculpture was an exciting journey which began with a vague concept, sketching it to achieve a visual form, building the armature, fleshing it out and finally having it cast in bronze.
“In the process I use my talents, experience and my gut feelings to guide me until I’m satisfied within myself that the sculptural form I’ve created moves in space and is in harmony with my vision,” she said.
The mother of two comes from an artistic family as she had two aunts who were both artists. One was a ceramicist and the other a water colourist and etcher who was based in England. Quin said while she was growing up, she always had a piece of paper handy for sketching.
“I always had a piece of paper in my hands and that evolved to clay. I even won a bursary to art school at Durban Technical College and when I was there, I received another bursary to the Goldsmith College of Art in London. Art was one of those things I had to do,” she said.
Quinn added her art was influenced by her roots in Africa, as well her time spent in London but said that, while the influences piled up, she had her own distinct style.
In the six decades she had been making artworks, Quinn said her sculptures, style and technique had evolved and matured and she now expressed herself in her own unique way.
“I’m not influenced by the local movement in artwork. I’m at a stage where criticism of my work doesn’t affect me at all. When I was younger, yes, but now I’m not phased,” she said.
Quinn complimented the vibrancy of the art movement in the country and said there was “some amazing work” out there.
“It’s a great pity that we don’t have a buying public to support the vibrancy and I’m not talking about academic art, that’s great too, but our work is very expressive and has a lot of soul whereas some overseas art, I feel, is soulless.”