Eileen Quinlan has a compulsion to think about the photograph as a material object, and to address herself as an artist to its skin, its flaws, to attend to the hairs and dust that settle over it when it is wet and to the fluids that swirl over its surface as it comes into being.




Day for Night, 2020
UV prints on Dibond panels (4 parts)
overall dimensions: 72 x 102 1/2 inches (182.9 x 260.4 cm)
edition of 3 + 2 APs

Throughout Eileen Quinlan’s diverse practice, the presumed power of the photograph to transparently depict and represent is averted and disrupted. Rather, the insistence on truth that underlays her work emerges through the foregrounding of material happenstances: the chance opportunity of an inconsistently exposed polaroid negative printed in the darkroom; the simple rigidity of a scanner-head as its movement registers gradually morphing surface changes; or an old documentary slide rendered alien by incompatible printing techniques. While constructing the photograph as a sheer surface of convergent interactions, Quinlan manifests a poetics of seeing that bridges a sustained attention to visibility and deciphering with the flux and disengagement that dominates contemporary perception.



Hardest Hue, 2020
digital chromogenic print mounted on Dibond
60 x 48 inches (152.4 x 121.9 cm)
framed dimensions: 60 1/4 x 48 1/4 inches (153 x 122.6 cm)
edition of 3 + 2 APs

Following her mid-career survey at Kunstverein Dusseldorf in 2019, Quinlan was recently included in the major exhibition Objects Recognized in Flashes at Mumok, Vienna.
For all their differences, the photographic works of Annette Kelm, Eileen Quinlan, Josephine Pryde and Michele Abeles selected for this show express a poetization of the surface that aims to renegotiate our perception and the meanings we attach to this perception. In this respect, “Objects Recognized in Flashes” opens up scope for an engagement with the “distribution of the sensible” in our mediatized consumer culture that is as compelling as it is contradictory. Whereas critical art previously aimed to rip away societal masks to reveal the truth behind the beautiful surface appearance, we are now confronted with the insight that these masks have become our actual truth. We are captivated by photographic product stagings although—or perhaps because—we are aware of their constructed nature, functional logic, and manipulative potential. Rather than seeking to break the spell exerted by the seductive aesthetics of the surface and the illusions of commodity fetishism, “Objects Recognized in Flashes” focuses on taking the fascination emanating from these sources seriously and rendering their paradoxes, potentials, and problems visible.




Quinlan is among a very, very small group who manipulate the negative in the photographic work cycle. Of that very small group, almost no one has done so for adequate time or with adequate affection to create a discernable language. While it is true that the printmaking is historically quite beautiful (see Aaron Rose or Man Ray) it is never, never, at this scale.




Ever since she was a teenager, Quinlan has repeatedly photographed in cemeteries. Having traveled extensively over the years, the cemetery has become a site of simultaneous familiarity and estrangement. Here, in an image taken at the famous Zentralfriedhof in Vienna that is at once deceptive and transparently honest, the close-cropped torso of a mourning statue echoes that artist’s ongoing series of nude self-portraits. Seemingly another chance chemical event, the dark striations lending this work its rich sensory texture come from discolorations and aging inherent to the statue’s marble. Further, this stone nude affirms the stillness of the documentary photograph’s inherent fixation of a moment of time.


I know film isn’t alive, but there are many times that it produces images, while under duress, that complete the ones I have labored to inscribe on it. Happy coincidences begin to feel aware. I am inspired and repelled.