Quinn’s Dream by W.M. Hunt
Catalogue essay for FORMAT19, Derby, UK
Of scenes of Nature, fields and mountains,
Of skies so beauteous after a storm, and at night the moon so unearthly bright,
Shining sweetly, shining down, where we dig the trenches and gather the heaps,
I dream, I dream, I dream.
Walt Whitman, “Old War Dreams” from Leaves of Grass (1881-1882)
There is immediate pleasure in Lottie Davies’s ongoing visual journey, “Quinn.” It began in 2004 and the artist has continued to revise and add to it, most recently with a 2019 installation as part of the FORMAT Photography Festival near Derby, UK.
The artist’s quest is like that of her protagonist—impulsive, necessary, full of light and natural beauty. There is considerable pleasure to be had simply in engaging with her photographic landscapes and videos. Not much happens. Rapture, yes, but few events.
A young man, Quinn, is a rambler, a young man who seems to walk with some direction but no evident purpose other than walking. We can learn more specifics from Davies’s written statements if we need those, but the visual evidence is full and always suggestive.
Quinn has an easy gait, without any urgency or determination. We can see what Quinn is traveling through: the gorgeous scenery—green fields and leafy woods, rocky coastlines—epic and sublime. There don’t seem any other appropriate prepositions: he isn’t really walking from or to a place but, rather, through.
The act of walking is simple and possibly complete. Maybe he is getting clarity by not having any real baggage. The suitcase he carries occasionally is light, perhaps empty. What is that about? He encounters a few people, but they seem almost inconsequential, outside of the story. Even the offer of berries by a young woman seems jarring, not only for the symbolic readings one might take from the meeting.
Quinn’s solitude, his solitariness, seems to be the most important element.
Even when we have the occasion to examine his effects, we do not find anything very revealing: a map and the odd talismanic or totemic stones he may have picked up in his walkabouts. In terms of spiritual guidance, Quinn doesn’t seem to have been visited with a planned route, even an imagined songline, to direct him.
Somehow, the act of walking meditation is in and of itself complete. We can suppose that Quinn is “working out” something.
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there” paraphrases Lewis Carroll's Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:
"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don't much care where—," said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"—so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough.
As existential but as wise is the story of the traveller who gets lost in the country, pulls up alongside an old timer standing by the side of the road.
Question: “Can you tell me where this road goes”.
Answer: “I’ve lived here my whole life and that road ain’t never gone anywhere.”
There is no agenda. Quinn is walking in these Arcadian spots, and that should be enough information for the viewer.
Ms. Davies is a storyteller, and Quinn’s Dream is her visual bildungsroman, in which the young man ”comes of age.” Quinn is her Werther. Quinn searches out the capitalized states of being: the Sublime, Nature, and Romance (as in ideal and idyll).
And certainly the artist may be able to sort out herself on this journey.
© W.M. Hunt 2019