Rimbun Dahan Exhibition Catalogue Essay
Anne Morrison beckons you to hover over crevices, lie beneath canopies, bury beneath undergrowth. Slip behind membranes. Peel back foliage. Slide against cell walls.
The painted environments in Haven are both macro and microscopic, bodily and earthly, scientific and sensory. The artist asks that you peer deeper into the shadowy spaces that haunt the leaves, spores, and parasites inhabiting the canvas. The surface of each work is similar to a forest floor, where decaying leaves, peat, feathers, skeletons, and twigs collide so that elements of each are only partially exposed. It is this fragmented imagery that reflects her unique approach to representing the land: ‘the layering experiences of place, relating to memories and to the movement through the landscape.’1
During the 12 months at Rimbun Dahan, Morrison has dug into and reinterpreted the organic fabric making up the vast garden that surrounds the studio. At the beginning of the residency, Malaysia’s tropical forms were unknown, and responses were acute and overwhelming. But time has allowed the artist to study the foreign land through its flora, her perceptions and understanding building with accelerating intensity. She has been able to track the seasonal transformation of the plants so that smells and textures have become vividly and evocatively familiar. The initial razor-sharp responses to the strangeness of a new environment have matured into a complex series of observations that compound with each painting, nourishing and anchoring both the artist and her work in this place.
Morrison’s practice is a continuous process of inspecting and translating the interface of tree, plant and grass forms. Cataloguing the extraordinary colour, texture, and shape of tropical growth, she is a world away from the Tasmanian seeds and grasses that triggered the preceding body of work. These were fine, weightless structures, ‘simple forms, light and ephemeral, carrying a multitude of possibilities upon a breath of air… seeds flying, dancing in the wind, settling, perhaps seeding.’2 In contrast, the moisture-congested air in Malaysia leans on equivalent biology, preventing flight and suppressing movement.
In Haven, colours are saturated, almost garish: turquoise, orange, yellow and white, unlike the muted reds, blues and greys intrinsic to Tasmania. Tropical patterns are webbed, not podded. Forms are plastic, as if slackened by the heat, not taut like those plucked from a colder climate. Paint is thinner and more viscous. Imagery is created through spilling, dripping and pouring paint on canvas, and at other times by employing methodical, repetitive brush marks. The artist’s visual language is constructed from these diverse methods of paint application, and from the ever-changing forms that surround her. Within this painted lexicon, evolving and existing dialects are employed to reflect both newly-discovered and reinterpreted forms.
Morrison’s more recent investigation of plants and landscape stems directly from an earlier emphasis on the body. During the 1990s, she fused imagery related to medical scans, diagrams, and x-rays, with maps of the land. These works were also about the unfamiliar, but probed the darker regions of the human body rather than the surface patterns of plants. They referred to the vulnerability of the body, and our inability to understand the path of foreign bodies and invasive cells. Red, pink, orange, and white paint was spilled onto the canvas, staining and penetrating its surface rather than resting with the modulated control of brush strokes. Veins, sinew, plasma, and cells were manipulated to create trails that alluded to mapping and the exploration of the unknown. Gradually, these paintings have lead to the artist’s subtle inversion of imagery: from inner body shapes that are suggestive of land, to land forms that allude to body. Though perspectives shift from looking in, to looking out, each work continues to be a highly personal landscape capturing the osmotic relationship between body and land.
Weave, Scatter, Envelop, Lattice, Storm. These are titles of earlier paintings that evoke strong imagery as words alone. They encourage bodily engagement with the work: pulling, hugging, whispering. Like these previous works, the images in Haven call the viewer towards Morrison’s unfolding interpretations of dense tropical landscape. Plants resemble the hairs, bones, veins of the body, and the heated colours mimic the effect of humidity. ‘The air is palpable … moisture is thick … beads of sweat gather on the skin … one is continuously aware of one’s body….’3 As a personal catalogue of responses to a foreign environment, each work is familiar yet strange. Lines are both sharp and blurred. Foreground and background are combined. Fleeting forms are nearly recognisable, but impossible to pinpoint. We are netted in pattern and movement, grasping and sliding, aware only of our emotions and response to the landscape before us. A haven.
Jane Stewart 2004.
Director, Devonport Regional Art Gallery, Tasmania.
Born Glasgow, Scotland in 1966.
Morrison graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree with Honours at Glasgow School of Art in 1988 before relocating to London to undertake a Master of Fine Arts at The Royal College of Art, graduating in 1990. In 1995 she was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to undertake research in Australia and in 1999 she was among the first to successfully complete a practice-based Doctorate in Fine Art at The University of Tasmania.
Morrison has had 11 solo exhibitions in the UK and Australia since 1989. Recent exhibitions include Cluster at Despard Gallery Hobart Tasmania and Body and Land at Devonport Regional Art Gallery Tasmania 2003, Weave of Nature at Essoign Club Melbourne 2002, The Sentient Body at Plimsoll Gallery Hobart 1999 and Intermediate Groundat The Bond Store, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Hobart 1997.
Curated group exhibitions in 2003 include Love letter to China: Drawings by 35 Australian Artists at Ivan Doherty Gallery Sydney (Touring China 2004), Painting Tasmanian Landscape at Plimsoll Gallery Hobart, Future Perfect at Bett Gallery Hobart. Synergy at (Artist/Scientist collaboration), CSIRO Hobart and My Father is the Wise Man of the Village at Fruitmarket Gallery Edinburgh, Scotland 2002, Zero Horizon at CAST Gallery, Hobart 1999.
Arts awards and arts residencies include The Fusion Arts Commission Edinburgh, 2001, The Scottish Arts Council Small Assistance Award 1999, The Scottish Arts Councils One Year Australian Arts Residency 1994-95, The Ensign Prize, Painting, Royal College of Art, London 1990, The British Institution Fund (1st prize Painting), Royal Academy, London and The John Minton Travel Award RCA 1989, The Elizabeth Greenshields Award, Canada and The Jock Macfie Award, Glasgow School of Art, 1988.
Work in art collections include The Derwent Art Collection, Tasmania, The Scottish Arts Council, The Royal College of Art London, The University of Tasmania, Ensign Trust London, Devonport Regional Art Gallery, Aberdeen Hospital and Northfield Academy, Aberdeen, Scotland and Hijjas Kasturi Associates/ Rimbun Dahan, Kuala Lumpur.
Morrison is a Permanent Australian Resident who works and resides in Forth, Tasmania.
For full Curriculum Vitae contact Anne Morrison, firstname.lastname@example.org
Anne Morrison is represented in Tasmania by Despard Gallery, Hobart