The Contemporary Art Society has recently acquired a film and a diptych by Hannah Quinlan & Rosie Hastings for The Box, Plymouth. Hannah Quinlan & Rosie Hastings are a multidisciplinary artist duo, interrogating the iconography of queer culture through sound, moving image, live events and incredibly skilful drawings. They map the queer landscape in myriad ways, creating bodies of work that place underrepresented narratives at the forefront of their practice.
One of their most prominent works is the UK Gay Bar Directory, an archive documenting over 100 LGBTQ+ venues across the UK. Their works serve as archival resources because of the emphasis on community and the importance of being queer and existing loudly.
In their films, Quinlan & Hastings have used a variety of objects from mobile phones to professional cameras and have created works with CGI, found footage, archives and moving image. Named after their best friend, artist Gaby Sahhar, the film Gaby is comprised of three vignettes portraying the intricacies of intimacy and destruction, framed around the politics and commodification of the queer body. They explore storytelling on a vast spectrum, from the intimate to the widest political impact, reflecting on lived experiences and raising questions of safety among the LGBTQ+ community.
Quinlan & Hastings’s diptych They will flee like chaff scattered by the wind or like dust whirling before a storm gives another insight into their practice. The work deconstructs the power dynamics of place and agency through the gendered lens of visibility. Reminiscent of technical masters like Hogarth yet quintessentially distinctive in their contemporary style of queer narration, these graphite works focus on the foray of limbs in motion, capturing a sense of urgency and anxiety over the ownership of space.
Exploring questions of identity, transformation and belonging is a key aspect of The Box’s developing acquisition strategy, which has traditionally had a strong focus on figuration, stemming from Sir Joshua Reynolds as an illustrious son of the city and The Box having important holdings of his work. Included in the museum’s Designated Cottonian Collection, old master drawings by Rubens and Castiglione have a compelling compositional and technical relationship with the diptych by Quinlan & Hastings.
Furthermore, The Box collection has strong roots in the moving image, due to the recent inclusion of the South West Film and Television Archive, which is one of the largest archives of this kind in the UK. The Box also holds the Pride in Our Past Archive, a collection dedicated to and compiled by the LGBTQ+ community of the city. Gaby therefore, not only contextualises the drawing but also enables the collection to strengthen in a variety of forms and mediums whilst amplifying the duo’s radical and important voice about LGBTQ+ community.
Hannah Quinlan & Rosie Hastings (b.1991, Newcastle & London, UK) live and work in London. Recent solo shows include Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin (2020); Focal Point Gallery, Southend-on-Sea, UK (2020) and Arcadia Missa, Paris (2018). Recent group shows include Maison Populaire, Montreuil France (2020); Hayward Gallery, London (2019) and Whitechapel Gallery, London (2019).
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society with the support of The Box, 2020/21