The Madonna of LA
After years at the top of his game, Soloman Quin this year has cemented his legacy as one of the most influential artists this century with his seminal exhibition, “Little picture and the Lust of the Cactus” at The Museum of Modern Art. Solomon (or Solly as he is known by his peers) came to fame in 2017 after painting what was described as a baroque cubist statement on the refugee crisis in Europe. His art has been critical and controversial and he survived an assassination attempt by the Chinese Communist Party after he defaced the Mao portrait in Tiananmen Square. Solomon has born in the West Indies and spent his childhood traveling as his father was in the British Navy. We sat down with Soloman Quin at his residence in Havana, Cuba, to discuss where he has been, where he wants to go and his legacy.
Transcript of Interview 02/03/2021
MS: So after all these years, where do you see art going, and do you feel comfortable in its trajectory?
SQ: Art is a medium of culture and I feel it is safe as long as its intentions and message are honest to the doer and the viewer. I think for the last 20 years the role of art has changed in our society. The culture of money and the idea you need to make money is killing the human spark for creation. We are faced with the classic question of the “purpose” of Art. To that I answer, ‘what is the purpose of your life?’; every human alive is draining our earth – why we live, why we travel to Roma to see the cathedrals, or the stone carving work in Jaipur? Art is a testament to the will of humanity and we can’t escape it either.
MS: What do you hold close when you express yourself in your art?
SQ: I am a very eclectic person as you know, and I have a lot to say on many things, like for example – you are wearing a white shirt; a fine white shirt, but it has black buttons, why does it have black buttons?
MS: I don’t know, I bought it like this and I liked the contrast against the white…
SQ: Is your shirt art?
MS: It depends…
SQ: You are diplomatic but I would like to ask a question which is related to this maybe nonsense example – Why did you not get your shirt tailor-made? I always feel that as humanity we keep outsourcing our creative and design decisions to other people. I believe if it was the same cost to tailor that shirt, you would have a better relationship to that product.
MS: But what happens if I don’t care enough to make that effort?
SQ: Then I believe you are wasting an opportunity to be unique even if it is just a shirt – with the questions of “who am I” to so many – having control of your identity is very important. This is what I keep in mind when I do Art, live art.
MS: I see, I can understand why you went after the Mao portrait in Tiananmen Square.
SQ: His identity is large and an artist in his own right in changing a collective consciousness. I believe the art of any artist should be able to be adjusted or defaced. It would not cause me any issues if every piece of art I ever did was destroyed. I come from a cause-effect, effect-cause mentality.
Mao portrait at Tiananmen Square. Photo Credit: David Gray
MS: Do you ever worry that your point of view is too extreme or perceived as an instigator?
SQ: I think that unless I test the waters, we won’t know how extreme it is – see, they say history is written by the victors – I like to see my self as the uncommon man writing history – history is, after all, a medium in my opinion.
MS: Tell me more about what you wanted to achieve in “Little picture and the Lust of the Cactus”?
SQ: I wanted to discuss how I felt and perceived the schooling system and its impact on children.
MS: It was very moving especially your piece “All part of the plan”. Do you feel you will be ever be forgiven for the message it promoted?
SQ: No- but I can’t help if the message was hard to hear it needed to be said so that it was heard.
MS: I feel you career is over after “Little picture and the Lust of the Cactus” do you believe I am right?
SQ: No. I feel that speculation of my career is pointless as it ends when I am dead.
The Madonna of LA Part Two
MS: You really seem at peace?
SQ: I don’t know why I should not be happy – I get to do what I love to do and I have enough money to eat and travel – what more should I be worried about than my legacy? That’s not in my hands. I can only give them the fuel for that fire.
MS: Before death where do you want your art to go from here?
SQ: I want to be alive to see the End of Art and its rebirth – I have been pondering on what an end of Art is or represents. I feel it is not possible … Let’s see. Would you like some pancakes and rum?
MS: Yes why not…Thank you.