The Empire of Maureen Quin

Written by Briony Haynes | Curated by Nadine Froneman

There will never be another Maureen Quin in South African art history. She undoubtedly is one of our most treasured female sculptors. After obtaining her diploma in fine arts with distinction in 1955 and furthering her studies at Goldsmiths in London 1956, her love and passion for remaining true to creating has resulted in a lengthy list of local and international exhibitions, bursaries and awards. ‘My art is my life, and to evoke a response from the viewer is to share part of my life’.

Liberation 2003, Bronze, H1020mm x W310mm x L230mm

Maureen Quin still is creating after a lifetime dedicated to art making at a proud 86 years of age! On the 14th February 2020 Quin embarked on a new adventure leaving her supporters blown away while watching a lifetime of sculptural genius at work. Quin effortlessly created a bust in ball clay from a live model over three days for the annual exhibition So Much Talent In Our Country at Art@Africa. Quin started her quest by anatomically analysing her model with a quick sketch followed by jumping straight into building up her signature clay application. Quin blew away intrigued onlookers and stunned social media followers with how effortlessly she played with the clay in her hands into a life-like sculpture of the model. It was a surreal experience for those who live to tell the tale. Quin’s sculpture is on exhibit at Art@Africa’s permanent display.

Maureen with artist model.

If one desires further visual enlightenment, Post Paris 1988 and Interaction 2003 is a selection of Quin’s sculptural mastery on permanent display at Art@Africa. In 1987 Quin travelled to Paris in the hope of becoming inspired by contemporary movements, despite her disappointment, the trip ignited a rediscovery of the African energy she missed. With this body of sculptures Quin aims to create an overview of her feelings towards the positive African spirit, culture, inspiration and the hope for an improved society. In a country that has been continually torn apart, Quin seeks to present the desires of the people to heal the wounds of the past and overcome suffering.

Post Paris signifies the moment her works emotively explore and morph human and animal iconography to depict South African identity. By displaying both muscular bodies and skeletal bone structure in combination with animal horns and human bodies she creates a captivating body of bronzes. The sculptures are surrealistic and resonate an internal emotive process where Quin starts by drawing ‘until ‘she’ gets under the skin of ‘her’ subject, till ‘she’ can feel that sculpture in ‘her’’. She is inspired by emotion and works with her subconscious presence to reflect her inner thoughts.

Compassion II, 2003, Bronze, H459 x W120 x L205mm

“Post Paris signifies the moment her works emotively explore
and morph human and animal iconography to depict
South African identity.”

Quin is inspired by Henry Moore and strongly driven to capture emotion. Quin stated in 2005 that ‘In many of my studies I endeavour to capture the rapport between humans and the animal kingdom by combining the two to create sculptures that are uniquely my own abstract approach.’ This animal form began to emerge as she decided to include horns in her Post Paris works due to the desire to balance the compositional aspect of her changing style. This addition did more than just balance a composition, it gave her art a new character. The use of horns became her African icon and an allegorical illustration with integral meaning. This artistic shift is one of the iconic signatures along with extended outstretched necks which transcend emotion.

Quin further investigates African identity in Interaction. The series is Quin’s response to the negativity which relics and ‘enjoys so much attention in the media’. Inspired by this she desired to sculpt people recognisable for their nobility rather than their faults. This series is sculpted with distorted bodies and bone, which with their calculated compositions and interaction with one another echo the empathy, suffering and passion of South Africans.

Maureen Quin is an artist who expresses a unique sensitivity to form as well as energy for life through her sculptures. Quin works to represent a balance in her figures by sculpting recognisable Afrocentric identities to show both struggle and optimism in their appearance. Each work is a new personal journey and are not conceptually inspired but rather emotive responses. There is a dialogue created between the tension of positive and negative forms of each sculpture thereby allowing the works to ‘acquire a spirit and a personality’. Quin’s art is a national treasure as she most certainly has left an African imprint.

Contact: Dirk Durnez, 082 774 1078 or

Celebration, 2003, Bronze, H500mm x W250mm x L180mm


Rising Figure, 1990, Bronze, H270 x W270 x L190mm Edition 6