Viral Paintings (2020) are a visual diary of the Covid-19 pandemic, during which Quinn is spending lockdown in his London studio and producing a painting per day, depicting the latest news about the virus. Each artwork is taken from a screenshot of Quinn’s iPhone newsfeed, which is pigment-printed on canvas and overpainted in gestural splashes, pours and strokes. Retaining the images’ original proportions but enlarged to 240 x 110cm (8’0” x 3’7”), Viral Paintings communicate the way in which, for many people, this pandemic is largely experienced from home, via device screens. Certain works superimpose the artist’s FaceTime calls with family onto newspaper spreads, highlighting the significance of technology in a time of mandatory social distancing and noting the personal nature of this series.
These works mark a new chapter in Quinn’s ten-year series, History Paintings, which explores the way in which current affairs are communicated in the media, and how this steers the course of history. While the documentary images featured in History Paintings take months to reproduce in oil, Viral Paintings use print methods to reflect the accelerated writing of history via online journalism and the urgency with which these works have been made. The printed back images are overpainted using Quinn’s longstanding method of abstraction to portray the altered reality we experience when living life through a screen: human interaction is distorted and facts and figures blur so as to become meaningless. Further, as daubs of oil spread thickly across each canvas, the Viral Paintings edge towards a visual manifestation of viral infection.
Quinn intends to make a donation from the sale of each Viral Painting to the UK’s National Health Service and the World Health Organization in order to support their work during the crisis.