Julia Morison’s career spans more than three decades and her work is known for its capacity to push formal and conceptual boundaries and to challenge conventions or dominant trends.
Born in 1952, Julia Morison lives and works in Christchurch, New Zealand. She graduated with Honours in Fine Art from the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts in 1975. She has exhibited extensively throughout New Zealand and internationally. She was awarded the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship in 1988 and undertook the Moët & Chandon contemporary art residency in France in 1990. Morison continued to live and work in France until her return to Christchurch in 1999 to lecture in painting at the University of Canterbury, a position she held until 2007. She has twice been selected for inclusion for the Sydney Biennale. Her major survey exhibition 2006-07, A loop around a loop: Julia Morison was jointly organised by the Christchurch Art Gallery and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. She was made a New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate in 2005.
Her work finds expression across a variety of media including painting, photography, sculpture and installation, always eschewing easy categorization with multiple points of formal and symbolic return throughout her oeuvre. Consistent has been the investigation and testing of existing systems of ordering and systematizing form and content – from Euclidian geometry, the legacies of constructivism and formal abstraction, through to interrogation and re-imagining of alchemy, number symbolism and in particular the Jewish mystical tradition called Kabbalah. How she draws upon or extrapolates from source materials is never slavish – the potency and veracity of a sign or symbol is something to be tested and toyed with.
There are few artists working in New Zealand whose work so aptly suits the descriptor ‘embodied knowledge’. A potent physical relationship exists between the viewer and the work. Morison’s use of a spectrum of materials has tested our assumptions and associations – for decades she has worked with substances as varied as blood, excrement, gold, lead, clay, wood, hair, beeswax and mercuric-oxide.
Centrefolds, made in 2000 and exhibited in the 2nd Auckland Triennial at Auckland Art Gallery, utilize ‘dragon’s blood’, ink and pastel worked onto old European Bible paper (unstitched by the artist) in astoundingly vulval Rorschachs that amplify and confound the relative values and merits of faith-based systems, the sanitized prurience of ‘men’s magazines’ – those coy artefacts of yesteryear before the onslaught of internet porn – and the 70’s womens movement’s instruction for inspecting one’s own vulva as a mark of liberation.