Marc Quinn on orchids

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Orchid 'Under The Volcano' Scarf by Marc Quinn
Orchid 'Under The Volcano' Scarf by Marc Quinn

British artist Marc Quinn discusses his ongoing fascination with orchids, an interest which began during the realisation for his seminal frozen garden installation in 2000...

"Orchids are like perfectly evolved little sculptures in themselves, they're full of colour, interesting shapes and beauty. Even though they are a plant's reproductive organs, they pun on human ones too. They make you realise it is colour, life and sexuality that keeps the world turning. They are a celebration of life. I like all kinds of flowers, irises, sunflowers and anthuriums are great but none are quite as good as orchids.

I believe an artist's job is to communicate with people, by any means at their disposal. With this in mind I designed a small collection for the Concept Store in Selfridges. I have exhibited with galleries and museums and I felt to get my work out there on the kind of things people use in their daily lives, is an interesting way to develop that idea. I find clothing interesting because it is like a soft version of people transforming themselves through surgery. You are clothing your outside in something that reflects how you feel about yourself on the inside. You are turning a biological given into a cultural construct."

"Orchids are like perfectly evolved little sculptures in themselves, they're full of colour, interesting shapes and beauty"

Since his Garden work, which debuted at the Fondazione Prada in Milan in 2000, British artist Marc Quinn has been fascinated by Orchidaceae, one of the largest families of flowering plants, easily distinguishable by highly modified petals, fused stamens and carpels and extremely small seeds. Quinn's Garden was a walk-through mirrored installation filled with thousands of plants, including various species of orchids, many of which would not normally be found in the same environments. Frozen in silicone at perfect bloom and then kept at -25C, the Garden was an impossibly perfect botanical situation. This principal work represents some of the central themes in the Quinn's work: beauty, preservation, genetic modification and hybridism.

Since 2000, Quinn, an artist perhaps best known for his YBA grouping, marble amputee sculptures and blood self-portrait, has continued to explore the "garden". Most notably the orchid, which has featured regularly in experimental and conceptual sculptures (the largest spanning 30ft), paintings and drawings. Historically, the wild orchid is a symbol of fertilisation, purity and spiritual perfection. Quinn's light and spacious, two-storey east London studio, is filled with Orchidaceae, a dense group kept in optimum conditions, surrounded by the artist's large-scale, hyper-realistic paintings. The Archaeology of Desire, unveiled at the White Cube in 2009, is based upon a naturalistic Phalaenopsis, a genus of the orchid family, rendered in exquisite detail. The fine, papery petals, each distinguished by unique venation, defy the properties of the bronze medium in which they are cast to appear almost weightless and ethereal. Quinn's latest work is four window displays for Selfridges' Concept Store and a collection of exclusive orchid-inspired products including sculptures, temporary botanical tattoos, jewellery, silk scarves and limited edition prints.

Text by Laura Bradley