Indepth Arts News: |
"Malcolm Morley: In Full Color"
2001-06-15 until 2001-08-27
Malcolm Morley, winner of the first Turner Prize
in 1984, is an artist whose work defies
classification. This show charts the dramatic
development of Morleys work over the past 40
years, beginning with a series of abstract
paintings, which introduces one of his most
enduring themes, the sea. Influenced by film
and advertising, by ancient myths and
psychoanalysis, by old masters and modern art,
Morleys highly charged imagery plays on the
expectations and fears of contemporary life.
This exhibition, which celebrates the artists 70th birthday, brings together around 60
paintings, models and holograms, many of which
have never been seen in the UK. It opens in
June at the Hayward Gallery.
Malcolm Morley was born in 1931 in North
London. As a child he developed a passion for
model aeroplanes and boats, and at 15 ran
away to sea. Following a disrupted and troubled
adolescence he discovered a talent and a
passion for drawing and painting and was
encouraged to study art. After a year at
Camberwell School of Art he enrolled at the
Royal College of Art, where his contemporaries
included Peter Blake and Frank Auerbach. He
left for the USA in 1958, settled there and
eventually became an American citizen.
His first solo show was in New York in 1964, at
which time he was developing a style of extreme
realism, which he dubbed ‘Superrealism’. Using
travel brochures and postcards, he painted a
series of ocean liners including SS Amsterdam
in Front of Rotterdam (1966). As he says,
‘Ships have had a very deep emotional meaning
in my life’.
He continued to make use of popular imagery
and in 1967 painted a series based on the
calendars produced by the tyre company
Goodyear, depicting sporting and leisure
scenes. In 1970 he brought his superrealist
period to an abrupt close with Race Track, a
painting of a South African race course
cancelled out by a giant red X. This
uncompromising statement against apartheid
was also a stand against imitators of his
superrealist paintings. At the same time he
turned to the old masters with paintings such as
Vermeer, Portrait of the Artist in his Studio
(1968) in which he recreates Vermeer’s
masterpiece with hallucinatory fidelity.
During the 1970s, themes of conflict and
anxiety dominated his art, in an explosive
series of ‘disaster’ paintings. These works, such
as Pacific Telephone - Los Angeles. Yellow Pages
(1971), which eerily predicted a major
earthquake, and The Day of the Locust (1977)
were, according to Morley, ‘collisions of vision
and thought’. The violence of the subject matter
is matched by the violence of the paint.
In the 1980s Morley travelled extensively, and
began to use Greek, Cretan and Native
American motifs in works such as The Injuns
are cuming – The Officer of the Imperial Guard is
Fleeing (1983). Through psychoanalysis he
rediscovered his childhood passion for making
models of boats and aeroplanes, some of which
he incorporated into his paintings. More
recently, he has taken the model kits
themselves as his subject.
Malcolm Morley’s major exhibition at the
Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1983 established
his reputation as one of the most outstanding
painters working today. It was followed by
retrospectives at the Pompidou in 1993, in
Madrid in 1995 and Oslo in 1996.
The exhibition is selected by Sarah Whitfield,
curator and writer on modern art. A
fully-illustrated catalogue will be available, with
texts by Sarah Whitfield and a new interview
with the artist by art critic, Martin Gayford. .
The first biography of Malcolm Morley, written
by Jean-Claude Lebensztejn, is published by
Reaktion Books in the Spring.
Ships Dinner Party, 1966
Magnacolor and Liquitex on canvas
Central Museum, Utrecht
copyright Malcolm Morley, 2001