Wednesday, 8 January 2014

'Black Highway'

‘Black Highway’, my latest exhibition of paintings and drawings opens at Nuneaton Museum and Art Gallery on Saturday. After a rather fraught day delivering the work on Monday (loading the van up with big canvasses in howling wind bubble wrap flying down the street, painting still wet, van not big enough, needing then to make two journeys, then getting lost to Nuneaton! (terrible at directions!) and heading to Coventry, display walls not the same as gallery plan I was given so then having to re-plan, mirror-plating 33 pieces until the gallery closes at five), I’m now feeling like a huge weight has lifted from my shoulders. I’m not sure what I’ve achieved, but I was very pleased with how the paintings looked in the gallery space. I think it’s the best I’ve seen the earlier motorway paintings look. After laying everything out, the gallery has been hanging them over the last two days. I see the exhibition for the first time on the same day as everyone else, when I go along this Saturday when it opens.

At the top of the post is the rather cool flyer my talented friend, Chris Cowdrill, created for the exhibition. He’s currently working on an accompanying ‘catalogue’ that will be available at the exhibition too. Following is an introduction I’ve written for the exhibition: 

Black Highway
Recent Paintings by Shaun Morris

‘We arrived where we started and know it for the first time’
                                                                                                                TS Eliot

This exhibition represents paintings made over the last two years with the support of a research and development grant from Arts Council England. These are my first serious attempts, after many false starts and blind alleys, to explore landscape painting following many years of painting portraits and the figure. Despite the obvious absence of any figures in the paintings I hope that the human presence is even more felt than before, but this time it exists in you, the viewer, who finds yourself transported to the painted places before you. 
My original intention was to explore the so-called ‘edges’ of the landscape; the nowhere zones between city and countryside; the overlooked and hidden. I planned to work on location in many places in the Midlands; and even took myself to Scandinavia, to Norway and Denmark, to fulfill an ambition to make work overseas. Ironically all the paintings on display in this exhibition were made from a landscape I have known all my life, just five minutes from where I was born and grew up. It is the landscape underneath the M5 and M6 motorways that take you right over West Bromwich, and the canals and towpaths that weave below, precariously traversed at night. 
As a consequence of exploring these places I have known, and yet not known, all my life, the paintings found themselves containing many personal memories and feelings. The more recent paintings of the canal reflections also found themselves representing a more political dimension. This was provoked by the recent death of Margaret Thatcher, and the barely healed wounds it seemed to expose in the community I grew up in.  The Black Country has never recovered from the devastating effects her policies had on the industrial landscape and lives of the people there.  When I travel through it now, there is a sense of an abandoned, or ruined and forgotten, landscape, which possesses its own bleak beauty. 

If there is one lesson I have learned in the last two years, it is that you never have to look far for inspiration. It is all there to be found in your own backyard.

I’d like to thank the following people for their advice, support and generosity over the last two years:

Chris Cowdrill, Andrew Smith, Jamie and Mette Wallace-Christiansen, Danny Bird, Laura Gale, Angela Swan, Marian Edwards, Hugh Marwood, Rob Williams, Ben Allchurch, Andrew Tift, and especially my wife, Diane. Oh, and Bruce of course….

Shaun Morris, January 2014

Hope you can make it along…

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