Patrick Quarm: Parallel Identities

Rite of Passage, 2017

Creating an entire of body of work as a way to self-reflect and introduce yourself to an audience is absolutely counter to the way we give ourselves over to the reductive and instant sharing of biographic information these days. Originally from Ghana, Texas Tech University MFA Painting student Patrick Quarm explores his African and American identities, pre- and post-colonialism, and representational portraiture in his thesis exhibition “Parallel Identities.”

Parallel Identities, 2017

The patterning, figuration, and concept of his works bring Kehinde Wiley and Yinka Shonibare to mind, employing the occasionally-same strategy, material, and trope, to somewhat different but parallel ends. By this, I mean that Quarm’s work is rooted in the individual, the familial, and frankly--beauty. I think that’s a good thing.

Laced Strata, 2018

The set up of a Ghanaian fabric shop display in the window of the gallery, coupled by the sometimes casual poses in his portraits frame his work in personal narrative (his brother ships him fabric from home.) His paintings may very much be about both his African and Western influences and ways of making, but there is a meta-narrative of self-representation as an archetype in his work. (I’m still thinking on what that larger “self” might be.) He delves into the social and class systems of Ghana, and implies the same of the Western world. The work is arresting and contemplative. He makes use of material (fabric and paint) in inventive ways, allowing each to remain firmly important.

Unity of Opposites, 2018

On the surface level these paintings are really visually delightful, with a focus on craft and presentation. The longer I looked at “Unity of Opposites” the vulnerability of the work came to mind. The delicate cut-outs seem to move in the air currents.

Quarm’s gentle, sure painting technique is masterful, but the work is oil paint on a sometimes unprimed substrate. These paintings may eat through parts of their surface, even if it takes awhile. I like the idea of a material having agency in this way, susceptible to the effects of time.

Poster Child, 2017

In Situ, 2017

Quarm removes himself from the history of Western painting in several ways, but maintains a core of realism. The female figures in the work hold the viewer’s eye contact, while the male (often Quarm himself) postures, looking off to the side. Occasionally, the trompe loil dissolves into pattern when you get close to the work. Quarm’s light-handed brushwork and compositional prowess inform the mood of the work. The same touch is delivered in his animation “Rite of Passage” where he slowly carves away at his own visage, leaving only a patterned silhouette. The masking, turning to the side and back, and loss of definition in Quarm’s portraits lends itself to the tragedy of overlooked--even lost-- histories. On the inverse, his paintings speak to cultural and personal excavation and self-discovery. “Parallel Identities” feels something like an auto-biography, and in this way the blending of cultures, masculinity and femininity, and the time spent and methods of making a painting are thoughtful and refreshing. It bears repeating: the quiet undertaking of creating an entire of body of work as a way of story-telling is absolutely counter to the way we sum ourselves up these days: in 140 characters (or less).

*Patrick Quarm’s MFA Thesis Exhibition, “Parallel Identities” opened at the Texas Tech University Satellite Gallery @CASP on Friday, April 2nd and is on view by appointment.

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