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"Malcolm Morley: In Full Color"
2001-06-15 until 2001-08-27
Hayward Gallery
London, , UK

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.

Malcolm Morley
Ships Dinner Party, 1966
Magnacolor and Liquitex on canvas
Central Museum, Utrecht
copyright Malcolm Morley, 2001

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