Quarles draws the pulsating fluidity of her figures from her own identity, which she often credits as a key inspiration. As Quarles explains, "The contradiction of my Black ancestry coupled with my fair skin results in my place always being my displace. Throughout my paintings, there are perspectival planes that both situate and fragment the bodies they bisect-location becomes dislocation. Fixed categories of identity can be used to marginalize but, paradoxically, can be used by the marginalized to gain visibility and political power. This paradox is the central focus of my practice." (Christina Quarles, "Artist Statement," christinaquarles.com (online)) Suspended in planes of matte color, the entangled figures languidly sprawl across an ambiguous landscape, their bodies evocatively contoured with brightly saturated hues and intricate patterns. Two faces kiss within the sensual web of oscillating limbs as Quarles' figures seemingly fuse and morph into one another, destabilizing the boundaries between each form. The unadorned background juxtaposed against the vivacious sinuous figures that simultaneously intertwine and unravel is evocative of a surrealistic scene. Writhing with passionate intensity, the figures press together, their hips both convulsing apart and merging in an entrancing entanglement of unrestrained hedonism.
A sublimely paradoxical scene, Night Fell Upon Us explores the dichotomies of the self, illuminating the intersection of gender, sexuality and race while underscoring the diversity and complexity of the universal experience. Quarles' figures and environment are piquantly captivating; the gestural lines and experimental technique allow the forms to flow, contort and evolve with the viewer. Describing her practice, Quarles explains, "what interests me are themes of the sort of fragmentation that happens of yourself when you are in your body and really at a disadvantage in the way of knowing yourself because you know all [your] contradictions, all the ways you exceed or don't quite fit into these certain categories of identity that we're placed in. And yet we experience a world of other people where [they are] these cohesive figures ." (Christina Quarles quoted in: Claire Selvin "Christina Quarles on the Intricacies of Figuration and Selfhood" ARTNews, 15 April 2021 (online)) In Night Fell Upon Us, the variety of painterly methodologies and the myriad of organic forms and shapes illustrate a visual analysis of identity, one that delights in the non-binary and challenging to define.