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QUAR 2018013 Casually Cruel HR crop

Christina Quarles The human form remastered

Long spoken of alongside the famed work of Arshile Gorky and Willem De Kooning, Christina Quarles' paintings explore the abstracts of the human form. 

Twisting bodies and their surroundings into impossible shapes, she creates identities for figures that often come without faces. We are tasked with understanding them without seeing them as we would usually expect - a job that could take hours of contemplation and an introspection mirroring that of Quarles herself.

QUAR 2019031 By Tha Skin of Our Tooth

'By Tha Skin of Our Tooth'

Aged nearly 35, the LA-based artist has been drawing the human form for over 20 years. During this time, she says, she has built up a muscle memory that has allowed her to delve deeper into her work.

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'Let Us In Too (Tha Light)'

"Drawing the figure is something that I have done so much that I
don't have to think about it when I do it. I can be thinking about other
things while I'm drawing because I'm not concentrating on the technical aspect of it.

"One of the amazing things that comes from making art is that you're working on this technical skill. It's through practice and mastering the technical skill that you can start to let other ideas filter through that skill and that's when you can tap into the subconscious."

QUAR 2019030 Cut to Ribbons

'Cut to Ribbons'

The Hepworth Wakefield has most recently played host to Quarles' work, making use of her experimentations in the space within which her paintings will be hung. One wall mirrored the planes of Quarles' creations, at least in her mind's eye. This match of space and introspection made the Hepworth's exhibition the artist's favourite to date.

When it comes to the creation of these paintings, no sketches are laid out before paint is applied. The abstraction is allowed to exist before Quarles must make at least a little sense of what she sees before her. "Through a process of really observing my own work, I will pull together the figures and start to make a form out of the abstraction."

QUAR 2019032 Carefully Taut

'Carefully Taut'

Identity, and all that comes along with a discussion of it, appears in Quarles' work often.

"I have a black father and a white mother but I look white, especially to white people, and so that was something even from a very early age, when kids would say, 'Where are you from? Who are you? What race are you?' I would say that even before I was thinking about it on a more intellectual plane, I was aware of the fact that I couldn't easily answer that question.

QUAR 2019057 Held together

'Held Together'

"I also identify as being queer. I'm in a same-sex relationship and so my queerness is another opportunity for that. I think of queerness as not being beholden to the gender that you're attracted to.

"I think it has more to do with resisting this way of thinking, and so that sort of led me to maintaining an interest in trying to find a language to express my experience of having these ever-shifting understanding of my identity, depending on the context or situation."

QUAR 2018005 Meet in tha Middle HR 4

'Meet in tha Middle'

This year Quarles' work will find its way to London time and time again. Her show at The Hepworth will soon move on to The South London Gallery and her paintings are already featured in a group exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery. Across the Atlantic, Chicago's MCA Gallery will host her largest exhibition to date this April.

More than two decades after the start of her journey drawing the human form, some might say the human experience, Quarles is an artist still experimenting. To her, each painting and each exhibition is an opportunity to learn more about the work she wants to produce. She hasn't finished finding herself yet.

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