Make Me Less Evil: In Conversation with Angie Quick

Angie Quick. Make Me Less Evil installation shot, Museum London. Image courtesy of the artist.

By Adi Berardini

The first thing to know about Angie Quick is that she isn’t afraid to express herself. Whether that means speaking her mind or making fluid and fleshy paintings, Quick has a way of captivating an audience. I have gotten to know Angie since she is my studio mate and last spring, we switched studio spaces. We helped each other move our paintings and supplies, and I admit, I may have gotten a bit excited about stumbling upon one of the erotic lesbian magazines she uses as a reference. Tenderness across time is at the forefront of Quick’s mind. Inspired by the everyday and encapsulating effortless eroticism, she is interested in how modern life can seem just as antiquated as the classical periods before and what it means to envision a more empowered way of being.

Working in both painting and performance as a medium, Quick is a self-taught artist who has established herself in the local London art scene over the past years. Her recent solo exhibitions include The Moonlight Made Me Do It at the McIntosh Gallery in 2021 and when i die i will have loved everything at Glenhyrst Gallery in 2019. She has had an exciting year with her first commercial solo show at the Michael Gibson Gallery, A Life of Crime, and an exhibition at Museum London, entitled Make Me Less EvilQuick forefronts the question: Can art make you less evil? 

Angie Quick. i won’t be happy until you’re dead, 72x60in., oil on canvas, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist.

Can you explain more about your exhibition ‘Make Me Less Evil’ at the Museum London and your inspiration behind it?

I didn’t know what the show was going to look like. I was just looking at stuff, researching, trying to figure out what I wanted to make. The earlier paintings were the Vermeer paintings. I was looking at a lot of Vermeer work and that was the impetus for it.

I was looking at classical works and the idea of the figure within them. That body of work is about tenderness and vulnerability and looking at intimacy. And I think that was often portrayed through bodies and the title Make Me Less Evil. That came midway while I was working on the series.

I was thinking a lot about personal ethics, like the idea of [someone] asking to be made less evil. But then also the power of art and if art can make one less evil, by the viewer looking at the work. I like that title as an overarching theme because as I was making the work, it just seemed fitting. I think because people find some of my work eroticism or see erotic things within it there’s like this “turning away.” I think it’s asking a question of the viewer and embracing it.

Angie Quick Make Me Less Evil installation shot, Vermeer inspired series. Museum London. Image courtesy of the artist.

The way I interpreted it is a lot of times, especially women, if they’re promiscuous or sexual, they’re made out to be “evil” when that’s not the same standard as men. So, I thought that was an interesting title because it’s almost reclaiming eroticism itself.

 I felt like the title could mean something to anyone who reads it because I think anyone could have a sense of what that looks like to be made less evil or what they carry within themselves or what society puts on [them]. I think a lot of my work is breaking down those boundaries of what we consider right or wrong or what we’re allowed to do or not allowed to do.

In addition to ‘Make Me Less Evil’ you recently had a solo show at Michael Gibson Gallery, A Life of CrimeA Life of Crime deals more with the implication of people in the space, with a more abstract approach and an inspiration from the Rococo era of opulence. On the other hand, ‘Make Me Less Evil’ is more erotic and depicts people in intimate settings. Can you explain the difference in your artistic vision in ‘A Life of Crime?’

I feel like the difference is more something I can see once I saw both works separately, but they almost bled into each other. They were similar and yet different. I made the museum work, but as I was making the museum work, Michael Gibson asked me to do this exhibition.

I made a whole new body of work and some of the work that was going to go to the museum ended up going to the Gibson Gallery. I think there must have been a shift occurring where fewer bodies were visibly present within the work. And it was almost like the bodies are present but absent at the same time. Whereas within the museum work, they’re very much in your face and present. I don’t know why that shift started happening. I do think I was looking at more Rococo work and more at the furniture and the interiors and the sense of someone maybe having just left the room or the memories that exist within the room.

Angie Quick. the night you wore your jogging suit to bed, 60 x 60, oil on canvas, 2022. Museum London. Image courtesy of the artist.

You can see the influence of your everyday life in your paintings. For example, referencing parts of your living room in ‘A Life of Crime’ or your self-portrait Make Me Less Evil depicting yourself napping on your studio couch. Can you explain more about your interest in referencing the everyday in your work? 

 I think everything that I experience in a day culminates onto the canvas. Not so much that it’s a portrait of myself, but I think my interest in being obsessed with something in my everyday life can make its way into the canvas and then it is next to something not directly related to me.

I think those things being in relation allows room for a viewer to make their own narrative within the canvas. So [that’s] why I like having personal stuff—it’s the same with my titles. My titles are probably the most autobiographical parts of all the paintings because those are usually direct snippets from my life while I’m working.

I think that kind of sensibility also lends itself to personal items that make it into [the work]. And I like the idea that there are moments in the canvas that are maybe just for me, but then suddenly it’s for everyone else. I think that the difference between what’s personal and impersonal. The lines blurring is exciting to me.

Can you touch upon your interest in depicting vulnerability in ‘Make Me Less Evil’? Can you also expand on your interest in intimacy and eroticism through your paintings?

It’s one of those things where I maybe am not hyper-aware that I’m making very erotic work. It’s maybe after the fact, having people look at the work and then tell me it’s either shocking or erotic. I don’t think I’m aware of it when I’m making a painting. I like the interactions of bodies and self and it just feels natural for me to come out into those dialogues. I don’t know if it just comes down to being shameless or if that’s just what I’m fascinated and obsessed with.

I love how you spoke about how butts are universal because everyone has one during your artist tour at Museum London.

I don’t even know what the psychoanalysis of that is, but I think there is something about how it’s a non-gendered thing. Everyone has a butt. And I also like the idea of the naked body just existing almost in a timelessness.

But are we just like a Caravaggio painting with a cell phone?

I sometimes wonder how much we’ve progressed or changed as people, when I’m looking at so much classical work and stuff, I think okay, now we have cellphones. But are we just like a Caravaggio painting with a cell phone? There’s so much moralism that still exists and restrictions that I have a hard time thinking that there’s much liberation within a lot of how we live.

I think it’s an interesting parallel to think of, they had letters before, but now we have texts. There are a lot of parallels even though it’s such a different time. 

I think now we can get things more immediately. We still love Shakespeare so much. It makes me think that as people, we only have a certain [number] of emotions and that’s why Shakespeare still seems relevant because it still resonates with all that we can express.

I also love Anne Carson. She’s like a classicist and she’ll take classical work and make it relevant to today so it’s almost like collapsing the timeline. But sometimes I can find that depressing too. It’s not that I don’t believe in progress necessarily, but sometimes when people look at my work and they’re like, “oh, this is happening,” I think that shouldn’t be shocking. It just seems like there’s no change.

You hope and you think that there’s progress, but even just seeing what’s happening now politically, rights are being rolled back. How far have we actually come?

It seems medieval almost. I feel like one of the differences now is that we do have the internet so it’s easier to make propaganda, but it’s also harder at the same time to control a whole population. I can be in communication with somebody in Europe and finding out information and stuff can be translated quicker. But sometimes I think we’re just very medieval, just wearing Adidas or something. Then that sense of humanity is important to me in my work and when I’m saying tenderness, it is seeing people as people.

Angie Quick. the cannoli eaters, 60x120in., oil on canvas, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist.

You have explained how you are interested in certain symbolism such as animals (lambs, rabbits, etc.) and religious symbolism in art historical contexts. Can you explain more about your use of symbolism?

I think because I was raised by two atheists that religion and Christianity are constantly very shocking to me. I was talking to my mom today about how people can be so horrified about sexuality or just like the freedom of an individual to be themselves.

And yet we can walk by churches all the time and there’s just like crosses and crosses resemble someone being killed. A naked man dying on a cross is constantly in our subconscious. Since I was a kid, I was wrapping my head around that.

I think I find it fascinating how so much of western art history uses those things, but they don’t necessarily mean what they’re supposed to mean to me, they become something else. I think I’m creating a personal narrative and ownership of certain symbols and then playing against universal ones. 

I think I just get attracted to certain things and I’m also really into emojis. I think the emoji is like the modern-day crucifix. It’s a sense of using something to delineate information in the shortest amount of time. And so, utilizing that in painting is interesting to me. And then, I can have my own symbolism that I start to create in my work by constantly or obsessively using it. I think they relate to each other since it’s a pictorial language and that’s why I find it exciting. I like the idea of information being condensed and then becoming something that can mean something to everybody. And then maybe skewing that slightly.

Who are some artists (or other inspirations such as books or music) that influence you and your work?

I like Salman Toor a lot. I liked like his sense of playfulness in his work, but then also there’s like a very strong resonance of personal meaning within it.  

I’ve read a lot of Sheila Heti this year, I read all her work. And Jesse Ball wrote Autoportrait, which is inspired by a [memoir by a French writer Édouard Levé], but I was reading a lot of works of autofiction and auto portrait. I think I was also listening to a podcast, and they were talking about how that’s like a new feminist way of writing and I think it’s taking control of one’s narrative. I find that was very influential in how I was working. I don’t know exactly how, but like somehow just taking in all that information. Anne Carson is also a huge influence.

I’ve always loved Cecily Brown because I think she’s like a good painter’s painter. Yeah, I feel like since I was fifteen, I’ve been haunted by Cecily Brown’s paintings.

Do you have anything you’re working on that you’d like to share?

I’m interested in the idea of horniness. At the Gibson opening, someone described my work as being horny and I love that. That’s the best compliment to me because I feel like that’s such a huge encompassing feeling. I’m interested in it and countering the impulse to procreate, the idea of being horny being almost universal, and the way that we can engage in that and the sense of purpose in life and horniness, but in a liberated sense. Like that horniness is liberation.

I was listening to a podcast with Meeka Walsh, who’s the editor for Border Crossings [Magazine], and she was talking about how a good piece of art makes you want to make love. And I was like, oh, horny. It was a more intellectual way of saying horny—I love that.

Check out Angie Quick’s exhibition Make Me Less Evil on view at Museum London until May 28th, 2023.

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