Trish Clark Gallery is pleased to present In hindsight, a richly layered and dense survey of Julia Morison’s works spanning more than four decades. There are few artists working in Aotearoa New Zealand whose work so aptly suits the descriptor ‘embodied knowledge’; always highly inventive conceptually and materially, Morison elicits a potent physical connection between her work and the viewer. This rare opportunity to engage with the artist’s work across time, including some previously unseen works, reveals Morison’s deep complexity, her capacity to push formal and conceptual boundaries and to challenge conventions and dominant trends. Running from 8 October – 19 November 2022, the exhibition’s last days are timed to coincide with Aotearoa Art Fair.
Now 70, Morison has exhibited extensively throughout New Zealand and internationally. A graduate of the University of Canterbury Ilam School of Fine Arts in 1975, she was awarded the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship in 1988 and undertook the year-long Moët & Chandon contemporary art Residency in Epernay, France in 1990, where she continued to live and work until her return to Christchurch in 1999 to take up the position of senior lecturer in painting at her alumna university, a position she held until 2007. Appointed a New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate in 2005, Morison’s practice was also the subject of a major survey exhibition, jointly organised by the Christchurch Art Gallery and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, in 2006-07: A loop around a loop: Julia Morison. Her work was included in the 9th Biennale of Sydney: The Boundary Rider (1992); KP5 Biennale: Jardins Secrets at L’hopital Charles Foix, Paris (1999); the 2nd Auckland Triennial: Public/Private: Tumatanui/Tumataiti at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki (2004); and the 17th Biennale of Sydney: The Beauty of Distance, Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age (2010); and her notable collaboration with Australian designer Martin Grant, Material Evidence: 100-headless woman, was seen at Judith Clarke Gallery, London (1998), Artspace at the Adelaide Festival (1998), and Selfridges, London (1999). Her works are included in all major New Zealand public Collections, and she was appointed an Officer of the Order of New Zealand, Order of Merit (ONZM) in 2018.
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 rus, finding 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.
Her powerfully evocative response to the devastating 2011 Christchurch earthquake reveals Morison’s fluidity of approach and intellectual acuity and rigour. Re-purposing the all-destructive silt shrouding her home and studio, combined with found / rescued / transformed objects and furniture, she presented all in the potent touring exhibition Meet me on the other side. We are pleased to now present four of these works in In hindsight.
As noted curator and writer Justin Paton has stated, “Morison’s use of her sources is creative, and wilfully idiosyncratic – she calls them ‘a skeleton you can spin off from’ – one of the pleasures offered by her art [over] decades, is watching her system mutate and ramify in unpredictable ways”.