|2000-2002||MA Painting||Royal College of Art, London|
|1997-2000||BA (Hons) Fine Art||City and Guilds of London Art School, London|
|ONE PERSON EXHIBITIONS|
|2014||Same As It Ever Was||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2010||Isolation Room (Black Economy)||Gallery Kit, St Louis|
|2010||Syllabus: LikeFliesRoundShit||Hunt Gallery, Sandwich|
|2010||Dark Matter||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2008||New Dawn||Chapter Gallery, Assembly Solo, Cardiff|
|2008||Alex Gene Morrison, New Video Work||Moot, Nottingham|
|2007||Adrift||The Fishmarket, Northampton|
|2006||Vile Lure||Rockwell Gallery, London|
|2004||Search and Destroy||Rosy Wilde Gallery, London|
|SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS|
|2019||10 Years||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2019||Plan B||David Zwirner Gallery, New York|
|2018||Do Re Mi So La Te (curated by Karen David)||Griffin Gallery, London|
|2018||Context: Gallery Artists & Collaborators||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2017||In Memoriam Francesca Lowe||Old Truman Brewery, London|
|2017||And If A Double Decker Bus (Curated by Dan Howard Birt)||Kingsgate Project Space, London|
|2017||Part I: Street Semiotics (curated by Zavier Ellis)||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2016||The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: 22 Painters (curated by Alex Gene Morrison & Kiera Bennett)||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2016||Black Paintings (curated by Heike Strelow)||Galerie Heike Strelow, Frankfurt|
|2016||Semiotic Guerrilla Warfare (Part 2)||Dean Clough Museum, Halifax|
|2015||Semiotic Guerrilla Warfare (Part 1)||PAPER Gallery, Manchester|
|2015||Black Paintings (curated by Zavier Ellis)||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2015||Die English Kommen! – New Painting from London (curated by Zavier Ellis)||Galerie Heike Strelow, Frankfurt|
|2015||Birmingham Show||Eastside Projects, Birmingham|
|2015||The Opinion Makers||Londonewcastle Project Space, London|
|2014||2014 Saatchi’s New Sensations and THE FUTURE CAN WAIT (curated by Zavier Ellis, Simon Rumley & Rebecca Wilson)||B1, Victoria House, London|
|2014||Cultus Deorum (curated by Zavier Ellis)||Saatchi Gallery, London|
|2014||Zinger Humdinger||Canal Projects, London|
|2014||Same As It Ever Was||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2014||London Abstract||Braubach Five Gallery, Frankfurt|
|2013||Art Britannia||Art Basel Miami|
|2013||Summer Saloon Show||Lion and Lamb Gallery, London|
|2013||Beautiful Things||Albert Dock, Liverpool|
|2013||Saatchi Gallery & Channel 4’s New Sensations and THE FUTURE CAN WAIT (curated by Zavier Ellis, Simon Rumley & Rebecca Wilson)||B1, Victoria House, London|
|2012||Saatchi Gallery & Channel 4’s New Sensations and THE FUTURE CAN WAIT (curated by Zavier Ellis, Simon Rumley & Rebecca Wilson)||B1, Victoria House, London|
|2012||The Perfect Nude (curated by Dan Coombs & Phillip Allen)||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2012||Polemically Small (curated by Zavier Ellis & Edward Lucie-Smith)||Orleans House Gallery, Twickenham|
|2012||Royal Academy Summer Exhibition||Royal Academy of Arts, London|
|2012||Ha Ha what does this represent||Standpoint Gallery, London|
|2012||The Perfect Nude (curated by Dan Coombs & Phillip Allen)||Wimbledon Art College Space, London|
|2011||Saatchi Gallery & Channel 4’s New Sensations and THE FUTURE CAN WAIT (curated by Zavier Ellis, Simon Rumley & Rebecca Wilson)||B1, Victoria House, London|
|2011||Video in Britain Today||Bermondsey Project Space, London|
|2011||Pulp Fictions||Transition Gallery, London|
|2011||Charlie Sierra Lima||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2011||Polemically Small (curated by Edward Lucie-Smith)||Klaipeda Culture Communication Centre, Klaipeda|
|2011||THE FUTURE CAN WAIT presents: Polemically Small (curated by Zavier Ellis, Edward Lucie-Smith, Max Presneill & Simon Rumley)||Torrance Art Museum, Torrance|
|2011||The Man Who Fell To Earth||Monika Bobinska @ Jens Hills, London|
|2011||Fade Away||Gallery North, Northumbria University|
|2011||The Beard (curated by Alex Gene Morrison & Kiera Bennett)||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2010||Fade Away||Transition Gallery, London|
|2010||THE FUTURE CAN WAIT (curated by Zavier Ellis & Simon Rumley)||Shoreditch Town Hall, London|
|2010||The Term “Reality”||Paul Stolper, London|
|2010||New British Painting||Gallery Kalhama & Piippo Contemporary, Helsinki|
|2010||Papyrophilia||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2010||Demonology||CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, London|
|2009||THE FUTURE CAN WAIT (curated by Zavier Ellis & Simon Rumley)||Old Truman Brewery, London|
|2009||Sliding Down a Radiant Abyss||Crimes Town Gallery, London|
|2009||New London School (curated by Zavier Ellis & Simon Rumley)||Galerie Schuster, Berlin|
|2009||Radiator Festival||Anexinema Video Screening, Nottingham|
|2009||The Golden Record||G39, Cardiff & The Collection, Lincoln|
|2008||The Golden Record||The Collective Gallery, Edinburgh|
|2008||THE FUTURE CAN WAIT(curated by Zavier Ellis & Simon Rumley)||Old Truman Brewery, London|
|2008||John Moores Contemporary Painting Prize 25||Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool|
|2008||The Past is History (curated by Zavier Ellis & Simon Rumley)||Changing Role Gallery, Naples|
|2008||The Past is History (curated by Zavier Ellis & Simon Rumley)||Changing Role Gallery, Rome|
|2008||6. Fun House (7:46), Will Turner & Alex Gene Morrison||Way East Gallery, London|
|2008||Icon (curated by Hugh Mendes)||Primo Alonso Gallery, London|
|2007||Spectre Vs Rectre||The Residence, London|
|2007||Loners Island||G39, Cardiff|
|2007||THE FUTURE CAN WAIT (curated by Zavier Ellis & Simon Rumley)||Atlantis Gallery, London|
|2007||Gire and Gimble||Blyth Gallery, Imperial college, London|
|2007||Hung Drawn Quasi Stellar Object||Portman Gallery, London|
|2007||Nature and Society||Dubrovacki Muzeji (Dubrovnik Museums), Croatia|
|2007||My Penguin||39, London|
|2007||Visions at the Nunnery||The Nunnery, London|
|2006||Artists Choice||Leisure Club Mogadishni, Copenhagen|
|2006||10th Planet||Unit A04, London|
|2006||Metropolis Rise: New Art from London||CQL Design Center, Shanghai|
|2006||Metropolis Rise: New Art from London||Dashanzi 798 Art District|
|2005||Fuckin Brilliant||Tokyo Wondersite, Tokyo|
|2005||Hydrophobia||Zinger Presents, Tilburg|
|2005||New London Kicks||Wooster Projects, New York|
|2005||Heaven and Earth||Hackney Empire, London|
|2005||Faux Realism||Royal Academy Pump House Gallery, London|
|2005||New London Kicks (in association with Armory Show & Art Review)||Soho House, New York|
|2005||The Darkest Hour||Leisure Club Mogadishni, Copenhagen|
|2004||If You Go Down to the Woods Today||Rockwell Gallery, London|
|2004||Uneven Surfaces||temporarycontemporary, London|
|2004||Zombie||Gallery Ude, Düsseldorf|
|2004||Other People||Three Colts Gallery, London|
|2004||First Assembly||The Ragged School, London|
|2004||Sympathetic Nerve||Capsule Gallery, New York|
|2004||Born Cry Eat Shit Fuck Die||Rockwell Gallery, London|
|2003||Snow||Transition Gallery, London|
|2003||Portrait of the Artist as Exquisite Corpse||39, London|
|2003||Tiny New Nation||Bowie Art, London|
|2003||Moral Combat||St Leonard’s Church, London|
|2003||Rockwell||Rockwell Gallery, London|
|2003||The Protective Clothing Company||Knox Gallery, London|
|2002||Full House||FNR Projects, London|
|2001||Modern Love||Hobbypop Museum, Düsseldorf|
|2001||Modern Love||VTO Gallery, London|
|2009 (Jul)||Artist of the Week, Jessica Lack||Guardian Online|
|2008||One in the Other, Anthony Shapland||G39 Gallery, Cardiff|
|2008||THE FUTURE CAN WAIT||Ellis Rumley Projects|
|2008||John Moores 25||Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool|
|2008 (Jul)||Q&A interview for Chapter Gallery solo show||Metro Newspaper|
|2008 (Mar)||Artist Feature, Issue 9||Amelia’s Magazine|
|2007 (Dec)||Preview for ‘Loners Island’, Jessica Lack||Guardian Guide|
|2007||Nature and Society, Richard Dyer||Dubrovacki Muzeji (Dubrovnik Museums)|
|2007||Issue 4||Fash N Riot|
|2006 (Nov)||Review of ‘Vile Lure’ (solo show), Sally O’Reilly||TimeOut London|
|2006 (Nov)||Preview, ‘Vile Lure’ (solo show), Jessica Lack||Guardian Guide|
|2006||Metropolis Rise: New Art from London||Exhibition Catalogue|
|2005 (Oct)||Feature on east London galleries||Modern Painters|
|2005 (Jul)||Heaven and Earth||Exhibition Catalogue, Earwig Books|
|2005 (Mar)||Preview & Pick of the Week for ‘Faux Realism’, Jessica Lack||Guardian Guide|
|2005||Issue 3||Fash N Riot|
|2004 (Dec)||Feature on London artists||Artforum|
|2004 (Sep)||Review of ‘Other People’||TimeOut|
|2004 (Aug)||Ape Institute Annual Review, feature on Rockwell Gallery||Ape Institute|
|2004 (Mar)||Feature on Keith Talent Gallery||Miser & Now|
|2004 (Feb)||Pick of the Week for ‘Search and Destroy’, Jessica Lack||Guardian|
|2003 (Dec)||Review of ‘Snow’||TimeOut|
|2003||Issue 2||Fash N Riot|
|2003 (Jul/Aug)||Friends in High Places||Art Review|
|David Roberts, London|
|Private collections in France, Germany & United Kingdom|
Press Release | 10 Years | 2019
|Dale Adcock, Emma Bennett, Kiera Bennett, Sara Berman, Jelena Bulajić, Tom Butler, Paul|
Chiappe, Adam Dix, Susannah Douglas, Tessa Farmer, Tom Gallant, Florian Heinke, Sam
Jackson, Simon Keenleyside, Thomas Langley, Wendy Mayer, Hugh Mendes, Sean Molloy,
Alex Gene Morrison, Tamsin Morse, Gavin Nolan, Dominic Shepherd, Carolein Smit, Barry
Thompson, Gavin Tremlett
|PRIVATE VIEW: Thursday 11 July 6.30-8.30pm|
|EXHIBITION DATES: Friday 12 July – Saturday 10 August 2019|
|GALLERY HOURS: Wednesday-Saturday 11am-6pm or by appointment|
|CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is delighted to announce ’10 Years’, our anniversary exhibition produced to celebrate a full decade’s|
operations in Shoreditch.
During this time we have presented 88 exhibitions within the gallery, defining CHARLIE SMITH LONDON and gallery director
Zavier Ellis’ unique curatorial vision. The gallery has also established itself as a discovery zone by being the first to exhibit many
acclaimed young artists via its annual graduate exhibition Young Gods. Beyond the gallery walls, the gallery has participated in
over 30 art fairs in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, UK and USA. Zavier Ellis also launched the monumental annual
exhibition THE FUTURE CAN WAIT with Simon Rumley, a ten-year project that was presented in partnership with Saatchi’s New
Sensations for four years and culminated in helping organise the seminal fund-raising exhibition In Memoriam Francesca Lowe.
Ellis has also curated or co-curated gallery, museum and pop up exhibitions in Berlin, Frankfurt, Helsinki, Klaipėda, London, Los
Angeles, Naples and Rome. And, perhaps most notably, the gallery has placed millions of pounds worth of artwork into collections
globally, working with many of the most prominent international collectors, and enabling artists to continue to do what artists do
best: making work.
This exhibition consists of some (but by no means all) of Ellis’ favourite artists who have shown over the years at CHARLIE SMITH
LONDON; some whom he has been tracking and wanting to show; and gallery artists. We hope you can join us on July 11th to help
us celebrate 10 Years!
Please contact gallery for images and further information.
Press Release | 2014
|Alex Gene Morrison | Same As It Ever Was|
|Friday June 27th – Saturday July 26th 2014|
|CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is delighted to present Alex Gene Morrison with his second one person exhibition at the gallery. |
This new collection of paintings signifies a culmination of ideas that Morrison has been exploring for over ten years. There is a distinctively anthropological feeling to his images of skulls, forests, monsters and totemic abstract forms that call to mind the primitive and tribal. Signifiers of fire and raw electrical energy convey thoughts of destruction, transformation and re-animation via elemental forces. Morrison reminds us that there are embedded, archetypal elements within us that abridge modern and primeval man. Simultaneously, ongoing obsessions with horror and sci-fi movies; video games; sub cultural design; alternative music and the oppressive, unrelenting rhythms of Doom Metal all seep into and out of the work.
This sense of deep time, which is intrinsic to the work, is coupled with a knowing enquiry into Modern abstract painting, where Morrison references formalist tropes that were defined by 20th century avant-garde movements including Suprematism, Vorticism, Abstract Expressionism and Neo-Geo. Inherent within all of these was a departure from representation and gravitation towards a search for purity of expression and the universal via abstraction. Morrison intelligently absorbs these ideological and painterly languages, and in doing so, creates a unique and alternative visual language that invites his audience to go behind the surface through fractures, splits and tears. Rendered in dark, textured paint and in combination with his use of archetypal simulacra, Morrison presents us with resonant, metaphysical paintings.
Press Release | 2010
|ALEX GENE MORRISON | Dark Matter|
|Exhibition Dates : Friday September 3 rd – Saturday October 2 nd 2010|
|CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is delighted to present Alex Gene Morrison with his first London one person show since 2006. |
In this new collection Morrison employs a highly personalised language in order to engage with a universal cosmology. Suspended delicately between representation and abstraction, forms advance and recede to suggest an outer worldliness that is somehow beyond and even pre or post human. Morrison creates an inter-dimensional realm that is at times enticing and other times foreboding. Complimentary and subtle colour combinations might project stillness and harmony whilst abrasive, electric codes suggest the clinical, infirm or incubatory.
But whilst Morrison maintains a stance of implication and illusiveness he still affirms a sapient presence by means of absence or in suggesting transitory movement. A stone slab in an empty room tells us that something was once here, most likely extinguished, and warns of an ultimate finality. Portals, gateways or corridors convey a journey, a point of crossing over from one state to another. Human or sentient beings were or are present in primitive or futuristic form.
Whilst nodding towards now retro futuristic film such as Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ or Franklin J. Schaffner’s ‘Planet of the Apes’, both of 1968, Morrison also references 20 th century abstract painting. Glimpses of Kazimir Malevich, Ad Reinhardt or Peter Halley can be traced in Morrison’s layering of form and colour. There is an acute awareness of the materiality of paint where subtle shifts in tone, texture and direction of application combine to create spatial and perspectival shifts; and underpainting and repainting bring our attention to the built surface. An inquiry into the equivocal, therefore, is underpinned by a rigorous investigation into paint itself.
Text | Jessica Lack | 2014
|Kill All Monsters|
|CHEMICAL WARFARE, I wrote in large letters next to Alex Gene Morrison’s name in a notebook from 2002. It is all I need to recall the painting he was exhibiting - a queasily coloured image in oil called ‘I see dragons in your eyes’ depicting a hooded form marching through radioactive slime. Why I chose to describe it in this way has, I think, something to do with the time and place. Morrison was among a group of artists working out of a makeshift studio/exhibition space in Dalston who painted the motifs of their youth; skulls, arcade games, schlock horror and thrash metal (co-incidentally Chemical Warfare is a song by Slayer) – the detritus of cold war politics and the computing revolution which skate culture appropriated in the 1980s.|
Until the new Millennia, the 1980s had been in aesthetic fall out, but now artists were reviving certain aspects of this bombastic era. There were Kirsten Glass’ slick collages inspired by the David Salle School of glamour and Luke Caulfield’s urban teenagers wearing their allegiances to Death Metal on their t-shirts. Exhibitions like the Barbican’s ‘Game On’, presented a considered historical view of the video game and the Japan pavilion at the Venice Biennale gave itself over to the golden arches. Even so, the idea of Donkey Kong, Gremlins, and that particular 80s palette which can only be described as Ocean Pacific, still engendered a certain amount of scepticism. For many, this renewed interest by young artists in such 80s icons as Pac-Man, was viewed by the gallery going public with the nonplussed apprehension of coming across a Zombie and finding they had no wall to jump over.
Morrison stopped painting in the colours of a low-budget video rental store a few years ago, yet some of the motifs he used from that time have remained. In particular the oddly-formed prehistoric faces, one of which in ‘Skull’ is just discernable in the gloom of the canvas like a cave painting weakly illuminated by the glow of a dying flashlight. The face could be a crude self-portrait or a Jungian archetype, but equally the primitivism could refer to the rudimentary beings developed in the 1980s in early video games.
Another image Morrison has used before is the amorphous form in ‘Black Bile’, which is as close to what I imagine the parasitic extra-terrestrial in ‘The Thing’ is. He was nominated for the John Moores Painting Prize in 2009 with a version of this image, except here the paint is as glossy as shellac and the brush marks mirror the grooves of a 12inch record. Like all of the works in this new series, Morrison has reduced his palette almost entirely to black, purple and red, colours favoured by Heavy Metal, and it is no co-incidence that certain themes embraced by this subculture - witchcraft, Nazis, crucifixes - are alluded to in Morrison’s work.
I get the feeling Morrison is finally beginning to enjoy his black period. He has often described his art as tragicomic and has always been drawn to the dumber aspects of the subjects he paints. He will go for the melting faces and pickled corpses in horror movies over the spine chilling atmosphere any day and the same goes for this new series, which ironically sees Morrison’s lighter side emerge from the rather severe abstracts of a couple of years ago. Both ‘Raw Sorcery (RAM)’ and ‘Arise’ could easily sit on the back cover of a Metallica album. The sexual overtones of ‘Raw Sorcery’ (a medieval battering ram bursting through a lightning bolt) are as blatant as the Satanic crucifix is in ‘Arise’ and as a result borrow from the dopey humour that saved Thrash Metal from developing the self-aggrandizing masturbatory excesses of their Prog rock predecessors.
The Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek argues that the appropriation of swastikas and other fascist symbols in Heavy Metal is a way of ‘de-semanticizing’ totalitarian ideology, essentially neutralising fascism by emphasizing its own absurdities. The German artist Anselm Kiefer achieved a similar thing in the late 1960s, when he photographed himself in mock-heroic poses giving the Nazi salute by public monuments.
It is no great surprise that Heavy Metal emerged in the right wing era of Reagan and Thatcher but that it continues to be thought of as proto-fascist. In ‘Shadow’ and ‘Sinister’ Morrison presents two paintings that could be said to confront this paradox. The former depicts a black right hand evocative of cave paintings and healing Shamanic rituals, the latter depicts a red slash against a black canvas that runs unusually from top left to bottom right. This is sometimes called a ‘sinister diagonal’ from the Latin word sinistra, which originally meant ‘left’ before it came to mean ‘evil’ or ‘unlucky’. Morrison paints this accursed shard in a primary red, liberating it from the crepuscular background. It could be an act of redemption, and that’s important, because there’s nothing a Metal band loves more than more than delivering salvation.
Text | Robin Mason | 2014
|QU'EST QUE C'EST|
|Listening to Alex Gene Morrison’s Recent Paintings|
|What is it these paintings, by Alex Gene Morrison under the umbrella title “Same As It Ever Was”, are saying to me? Initially they have the echoes of Babel’s Tower. Black fragments, quotations from past ‘isms scatter themselves around the gallery walls. Languages of figuration: geometric abstraction, modernism, constructivism, symbolism, all shuffling for dominance and potential confusion during the building of the tower that is this body of work.|
I’m called into the darkest depths of a small painting with the title “ Forest (with inverted symbols)”. It seems to be telling me ‘there is nothing more than melancholy here’, maybe a nod towards Romanticism (or not). In this darkness nothing more than a slipping line of sap, amber seems to point away from the darkness, but even this feels like a moment of entrapment. In the black searching darkness of these paintings there is a looming sadness that almost gives up hope.
This black seems to be there to keep us out, do not enter, enter at your own risk. As I view the other works in the show the black ‘blocked’ Malevich references and a huge primal, silhouetted hand, as well as the startling fluorescent flashes of colour, all seem to be hiding something beyond the canvas surface, something not for our eyes.
Then the wonderfully crafted paintings start to reveal moments of care and obsessive attention to detail, the fluid rhythm of thick black paint ‘edges’ against an impasto green glazed area. The bright colour, as rips or gaps or cracks or spaces become voids, blinding us to the space they open up beyond the darkness.
Holding your hand up, mimicking the huge hand in one of the paintings, you can protect your vision from the brightness. When I do this, the black gradually becomes ‘fur’ before my eyes as thinly dashed gentle brush strokes mimic the real world. It’s not fur, it’s paint, but it has the gentle fluidity of small hairs growing and flowing over a body. The fur of a bear, the fur of a cat, a fur that in the next painting becomes so thick that its textured surface is not illusion but is physically retaining the structure of fur left by the hair of the brush. Then the paint lodges against another area of thinly worked brush strokes right up to the edges, as the painting attempts to hold onto its physical existence in the real world.
These paintings don’t let me in, but they do hold me in dialogue. They tell me that they are exploring the possibility of things that are long gone, to reappear in a new form, no longer flat, but suggestive, a figurative minimalism, a minimal figuration is being discussed openly. But maybe the painter is not quite yet ready to reveal the findings or to show us what the paintings are hiding.
Morrison’s work tells the story of an artist who is in search for the answer to the possibilities of painting. To make audible the silent voice of ‘thought’ navigating and communicating with a material that is not held back from reflexive dialogue by programmes or equipment, but has the instant ability to converse with the maker, to guide the maker during its making, to be in dialogue with both the artist and the audience about its coming into existence.
These paintings initially hide their generosity. It takes time for them to reveal themselves. I leave wanting more, I want to see the other side of the hand, I want to see what place causes the fluorescent flashes, I want to see if the black is a cast shadow or the surface of a place or a being, what causes them?
I hear what they are saying, they are whispering it – “This is what I’m doing”, “this is what it looks like to be doing this”… It’s not the same as it ever was any more. Morrison’s sampling of the past transforms each fragment into something new for today. Now I think I want to hear them speak more loudly and maybe more directly, a cliffhanger. I want to see the next episode.
Text | Paul Carey-Kent | 2010
|PAUL CAREY-KENT | Stories of the deathly abstracts|
|Exhibition: Dark Matter|
|Exhibition Dates: Friday September 3rd – Saturday October 2nd 2010|
|Those who saw Alex Gene Morrison’s last solo show in London, 2006’s ‘Vile Lure’, may be surprised by his new body of work. Four years ago there were paintings and videos of gloopily comical, pastel-coloured characters who seemed to have zoomed in from some unspecified sub-culture: we were in an alternate universe with equal measures of seduction and repulsion. In contrast, Morrison’s new show is of paintings only and is dark, serious, restrained and apparently abstract.|
But not so fast. A closer look at the biggest canvases in ‘Dark Matter’ reveals that these may not be so abstract after all. ‘Sentinel’ suggests a door, a tomb or some Cyclopic presence. ‘Mass’ could be a dark planet, a black hole, a ball of flies or an opening into the void: an earlier version even started as an ironically black Smiley face. ‘Static’ could be a another dark opening, but also a huge close-up of a medal with ribbon, a computer screen or even two green faces in profile shouting each other down.
Nor is Morrison all that restrained. Far from disguising the artist’s hand in the flat style of much minimalism, there is a hand-drawn wobble to the shapes and plenty of painterly effect. The black centre of ‘Mass’ has a swarming, crawling texture. The reading of ‘Static’ as a screen is supported by the horizontal static-like striations of paint. ‘Sentinel’ contrasts areas of gloss and matt paint. Several smaller paintings make playful use of dark on dark colouration so that shapes are evident from some angles only.
These apparent abstracts, then, all from the last few months, are openings – literally, in those which depict portals, doors and screens – but also metaphorically. Openings into what?
First, they are openings to other places. The visual language echoes the worlds of science fiction and computer games and the urban landscape – all consistent with Morrison’s background and previous interests. Perhaps his characters may yet be ready to occupy these spaces. The paintings in ‘Dark Matter’ also suggest the more abstract world of artists such as Malevich, Rothko and Reinhardt to which they clearly refer.
Those three are spiritual painters, which may be another clue. Morrison’s father died shortly before he embarked on these paintings. That, not surprisingly, affected him profoundly and explains why tombs and coffins can be seen in the paintings, too. It is also consistent with the dark tonality and serious atmosphere of the work, and suggests that those openings may be into the possibility of an afterlife. The solar and planetary elements and the presence of hovering – or possibly rising – forms fits in with that.
The portals may also lead us into different times. The science fiction reference recurs if we see the paintings as depicting a form of time travel. References from the past – eighties technology, primitive video games, classic abstraction – are thrown forward into an imagined future. A future in which – as is the way – it seems the looks of former times have come around back into fashion. It’s a sort of primitive retro-futurism.
The emotional and scientific implications of ‘Dark Matter’ are, then, present throughout. The stage is set for these apparently abstract paintings to imply a surprising amount of narrative content – historical, personal, spiritual, transformational, and speculative. It’s not so much that Morrison has discarded his previous content, as that he’s testing how far he can move away from its figurative characteristics and still refer to it. I get the sense that this game works both ways: some forms start from the narrative, others emerge for themselves and Morrison then has to puzzle out whether and how they fit in. That keeps the process open and fresh.
Abstraction often arrives through a paring-back of references to the world in favour of concentrating on the work of art as an independent object in itself. In one way Morrison has started from that point by concentrating on geometric forms, but then added back the links to the world. Yet one could at the same time say that the result is rather closely related to Rothko’s intentions, for he saw himself not as an abstractionist but as a painter of human emotions.
Morrison’s latest work, then, gives us subtly lush paintings which pilfer the history of abstraction, but also provide openings into other times and places. They are abstracts activated by the to and fro of their stories.