Paul Morrison

October 4, 2000 - January 7, 2001


Paul Morrison’s black and white landscapes are at once both familiar and foreign: Familiar because his subjects—trees, flora, and their natural surroundings—are immediately recognizable, and foreign because he can cause a mere dandelion or weed to become cartoonishly threatening due to its immense size and lack of color. He infuses a sense of urgency, anxiety, and humor into environments that a viewer would normally consider peaceful background scenery. Morrison creates his pieces through a process that includes computer scanning and slide projection, but the finished product, naturally, is always paint on a flat surface.

About the Exhibition

By Lisa Norden


It is as if the forst oil painter had painted only trees, and the art of oil painting had subsequently been defined as the art of painting trees.

- Kenneth Tynan [July 20, 1972]1


Paul Morrison paints "only trees," and he paints them only in black-and-white. That is, he limits the contents of his paintings to trees and flora, framed by fences and hills and snippets of grass or weeds, seemingly congruous elements that he makes less plausible--by mixing up the schema, scale, and perspective--and less naturalistic, by reducing his palette to the unmediated opposition of black and white. Like many of the London-based artists of his post-Sensation generation, Morrison has chosen painting as his modus operandi. This has meant that unlike the "Young British Artists," whom he follows, he tends to be compared not with other Londoners, but wih other painters, not all so young: Patrick Caulfield, Takashi Murakami, Carl Ostendarp, Monique Prieto, Michael Raedeker, and Daid Thorpe, among others. Like Morrison, these artists have been featured in numerous international shows in the last few years and have fueled new debate on the viability of painting circa 2000. The pictures they make in the name of a new painting mix mediums and genres, and employ the exaggerations ad obvious schematic effects more typical of commercial and cartoon imagery. They differ significantly from those of an earlier pop generation, however, in which high and low were clearly opposed, and are closer to their digitazed, pixilated, virtual cousins, in which figures and forms re forever threatening to transform or dissipate.


Morrison is an active player in this arena. His paintings feature an ever-growing vocabulary of appropriated firs and willows and cartoon copses drawn from sources that range from Chip 'n Dale to Dürer to botanically correct, which he alters subtly--mixing and cropping, enlarging or reducing at will--and makes his own. Morrison also mixes compositional devices. His mismatched flora may be iewed from on high, radically foreshortened behind a baroque "repoussoir" of looming dandelion leaves; framed by a Warhollian faux-wood banister; or veiled under an agitated, hard-edge rendition of alloer ab ex gesture. Technically his graphic, silhouetted shaped and a production process that entails computer scanning and slide prjection make his medium a hybrid, yet he choses to work in paint, with brushes. More

1. Kenneth Tynan, "The Journals of Kenneth Tynan," New Yorker, 7 August 2000, 52.
2. This formal fluidity is often read as an ambiguity with cultural implications. See, for example, Color Me Blind! Malerei in Zeiten on Computergame und Comic, exh.cat., ed Ralf Cristofori (Cologne: Walther König, 1999).
3. See Bridget Riley: Ausgewählte Gemälde/ Selected paintings, 1961-1999, exh. cat. (Düsseldorf: Hatje Cantz, 1999), esp. 29-38, 125-29.
4. Raymond Watkinson, William Morris as Designer (New York: Reinhold, [1967]), 48.
5. Paul Morrison, conersation with the author, April 2000.



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