Belgian artist Arne Quinze (b. 1971) began his career in the 1980s as a graffiti artist and has since developed a practice spanning painting, drawing, and sculptures—the latter of which range from human-scale to monumental. Working as a street artist instilled a deep fascination with themes and ideas around urbanity, nature, and their intersections, an interest that is still reflected in his work and practice today.
Quinze is perhaps most widely recognized for his massive international public artworks, such as , created for the 2006 Burning Man festival; (2020) in Paris; and Festival (2022) in Saudi Arabia, to name only a few, as well as his signature colorful and dramatic style.
Currently on view at Galerie Martina Kaiser in Cologne through October 28, 2023, “Arne Quinze: Arcadia – Untamed Realms” features a selection of new sculptures and polychrome paintings that bring the untamed glory of wildflowers into the white cube—in keeping with Quinze’s ongoing investigation into cities and the natural world. Though gestural and abstract, the large-format paintings evoke with clarity the cacophonous sense of nature unbridled.
We caught up with Quinze to learn more about what specifically inspired the works in the show, and what project he has in the works next.
Your solo exhibition “Arcadia—Untamed Realms” is currently on view with Galerie Marina Kaiser. Can you talk about the themes or inspirations behind the show?
“Arcadia—Untamed Realms” is about the peace and serenity my atelier’s wildflower garden offers me. It is about an idyllic world, where society lives in harmony with nature, appreciating the beauty and complexity of nature to the fullest. With this exhibition, I hope to inspire spectators to embrace nature in their everyday lives and to reconnect with their earthly roots.
What do you hope visitors to the show take away with them? Or for their experience to be like?
My ultimate goal is to let visitors experience what I experience every day when I am walking in my garden. I want to immerse them in the splendor of Mother Earth and encourage them to live more in harmony with nature. Our cities today are so gray and mineral, entirely disassociated from the natural world. It is as if we are the aliens in this world by cutting down trees and by building four walls around every place, we set foot in, ultimately disrupting nature’s balance. These four walls are not only physical but also mental as we tend to think too much in boxes nowadays. With my work, I want to break down these four walls we tend to build on top of our beautiful planet by showing spectators what’s behind those enclosures: an infinite world of exquisite diversity.
Though the present exhibition is comprised predominantly of paintings, you are widely recognized for your monumentally scaled public sculptures. Do you approach your large-scale sculptures and paintings as separate practices, or do they in some way inform one another?
My sketches, paintings, sculptures, and monumental installations are connected. It is an intertwined narrative. They are each a depiction of how I perceive my wildflower garden, just in a different medium. My large-scale sculptures are in a way a representation of what I observe in my garden when I’m on my knees and look up to the beauty of Mother Earth. I want to put the viewer in a humble position, from a low-angle perspective towards nature as opposed to the controlling and predominant relation we often have with mother nature today. Similarly, my paintings explore the delicate balance between the strength and the fragility of my wildflower garden. I portray the beauty that exists in nature’s diversity and hopes, in this way, to inspire viewers to live in harmony with the earth and all her treasures.
How would you describe your creative process, is it more intuitive or do you start with more fully formed ideas?
Every morning, I start my day with an inspiring walk in my garden which I call my “labo.” I study and observe the shapes and forms of my wildflowers and then covey them on my canvas or translate them into my sculptures. Of course, my creative process is also fueled by music, podcasts, books, and movies such as Ghost in the Shell, Annihilation, …
Early in your career, you worked as a graffiti artist, how do you see that experience still influencing your practice today?
The influence of my graffiti art is still very much present in the work I make today. I try to incorporate the same rawness and brutality I discovered on the streets. It’s a sentiment of pure freedom. I paint purely on instinct—which I learned by doing graffiti.
Where do you most commonly look for or find inspiration when approaching a new project or body of work?
All the inspiration for my artwork comes from my atelier’s wildflower garden where I study the architectural growth of thousands of plants and flowers throughout the changing seasons of the year. The beauty and splendor I observe there is what I depict in all my artwork. I study the complex dynamics of the natural world and incorporate them into my artworks. My goal is to showcase the true diversity and astounding beauty of nature’s evolution. I want to reawaken our sense of awe and appreciation for the natural world.
Can you tell us about what you are working on now, or would like to work on next?
Currently, I am working on a sculpture that will be installed in front of the Pyramids of Giza for Art D’Egypte. I created the artwork in such a way that it enters beautifully in dialogue with one of the pyramids. I am very much looking forward to the results. Besides that, me and my team are now preparing everything for a major solo exhibition for the next Venice Biennale. There, I will uncover an entirely new concept. I will be assuming the persona of an alien, immersing myself in the beauty and complexity of the natural world, seeking to recreate a long-lost harmony. And finally, we will be installing a permanent sculpture in the financial district of London very soon.