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Julian Quaye

Bristol has been at the forefront of art for the past thirty years, primarily due to the graffiti works of Banksy and others. As street art has gone mainstream, many of these artists have changed their medium from concrete to canvas; far more gallery-friendly and collectible. Bristol-based artist Julian Quaye made the transition to the gallery art scene sooner than most and his works have appeared in Urban Contemporary auctions alongside Banksy, Mau Mau and Damien Hirst. His output over the past two years, a series of human-form animal portraits or “anthropomorphs” as he terms them, illustrates his love of ironic juxtaposition and his interest in Victorian and Edwardian colours. In his most recent show, named for his most iconic work to date, The Aviator, Quaye has developed his grand theme and introduces us to more characters in his story of good versus evil and the rise (and ultimate fall?) of the penguins. As Quaye himself explains:

“This is a mere snapshot of an ongoing tale where mankind has long since left this world together with his advanced technology, and the noble animals have taken over, of necessity developing technology of their own. But all is not well; the penguins, long estranged in their cold polar world, arrive ostensibly in peace bearing gifts created by the fruits of their own industrial and scientific knowledge that is far superior to that of the other animals. But they have a hidden agenda…

Boris (Westminster by Gaslight) Copyright Julian Quaye

In this new world, animals occupy positions in society much like those of humans in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. So we have a mining magnate rhinoceros, an industrialist leopard, militaristic great danes, socialite bats, a nightclub entertainer with a penchant for wearing a fez, high society cats, pug dog ‘bullyboys’, freedom fighter rabbits and tortoises, theosophical elephants and, of course, the penguins. As I create these pieces, it runs like a film in my mind – I hear the characters speak in voices of famous actors – Marlon Brando is the pug dog, Patrick Stewart the suave leopard, Ray Winstone the rough diamond rhino and Samuel L Jackson is Mr. Snuggles the freedom fighter rabbit.” JQ

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