Home » Troy Quinliven and his melting face

Troy Quinliven and his melting face

Quinliven. Into the black, ash and oil on canvas

Quinliven. Into the black, ash and oil on canvas

Troy Quinliven is a Sydney-based artist working out of the May Street Studios in St Peters. Into the black is a fantastic portrait I came across at Sheffer Gallery in Chippendale earlier this year. I’m so attracted to this face because of the palable emotion contained within the piece. Whether this work is a portrait or a generic ‘head study’ is unclear, but it’s absolutely heart-wrenching, though as viewer, we are unsure if its an image of death, intense grief or sheer anguish.

Quinliven uses a unique combination of ash and oil to achieve the rough texturing and the controlled colour palette – both elements acting as the language of the intense emotion. In this mask of tragedy we see the face and head giving way, collapsing downwards, the flesh melting under the weightiness of pain. We cannot help but feel death, either in the end-of-life sense or the broken-heart sense. Something is seriously fractured in this man; in us, in humankind. Yet, nothing here is gruesome – and I think that’s the key to the success of this work. Quinliven talks to us without describing tears, blood or gore and because of the absence of anything gruesome, I am unafraid to take a lengthy and in-depth view of the work. There is something about this piece which invites me to keep on looking.

It is often difficult to hold an audience with such an emotionally charged portrait – to make the work emotionally throb without the audience shrinking away is the mark of a carefully wrought piece and of someone with acute sensibility. Plenty of artists create intense work but if the audience is abhorred by what they see then it’s an opportunity lost.

I couldn’t find much about Quinliven on the internet. Apparently he’s been a finalist in the Blake Prize and winner of the prestigious Olsen Drawing Prize in 2006. He’s got a BA (Hons) in Painting from the National Art School and some of his work is inspired by Masaccio’s Expulsion from the Garden of Eden. As soon as I read that I could feel that same emotion that Masaccio captured with his broken, shamed and utterly dejected Adam. Such strong stuff. There are a few images of his recent show at Sheffer Gallery here, and he is listed on the May Street Studio site here. Neither site provide a written statement which is a pity as Troy Quinliven could be someone well-worth watching!

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