Victoria Morton at Sadie Coles

7 February 2011 § Leave a comment

Victoria Morton continues exploring ‘the space of painting—and how it operates psychologically on the viewer’ with a variety of working methods. Alongside more conventional wall-hung canvases small paintings rest awkwardly within old frames and vintage bed headboards, hinged and painted, rest at angles on the gallery floor extending the sapce of painting”. Her free-standing assemblages are as much sculpture as paintings and invite us to walk around them and explore – we are encouraged to engage physically with the painting.

Her paintings, are intricate andmultilayered simultaneously suggesting flux and stasis, dissolution and materilaisation. Morton considers them sites for contemplation and adrenalin-driven repetition and has also stated that: ‘Everything comes from the body. Directly.’  Alternately comic and serious she considers painting a way of registering daily experience in bouts of intense concentration.

Folkloric storytelling and snapshot-love moments are compositionally restructured and used as a point and counterpoint on which to hang her own personal narrative. The situation the paintings make, and their broken down images, convey a series of interdependent physical and cognitive relationships. What look like disjointed letters become “figures” occupying the pictorial space and so paintings become characters enacting a psychological drama. 

The result is a cacophony of raw, disparate and conflicted techniques. She says: ‘For me, painting is like an extension of consciousness. It can harness the minute and otherwise incomprehensible flickerings of the mind. Instinctual, sexual, and manual drives construct the hot surface. A body part or a desire can become the same thing expressing the need to inhabit, the will to break with familiarity.’

Her aim to test the gallery visitor on ‘the psychology of painting’ only worked for me in a limited way. Although one as encouraged to explore the space of the paintings they failed to engae and inspire. In addition one has to consider that the strategy can only be successful when when the works are shown together. Once separated individual pieces need to work on their own (assuming they are in the gallery to be sold!) and I question how many of the works will fare out of the exhibition context. The larger scale paintings like Soft Eaters and Hard Eaters are very appealling and successful – for me representing the essence of her work – whilst I suspect the ‘sculptural’ works will sink without trace.

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