• Julia Morison

Myriorama: a Victorian parlour game consisting of 16 to 24 pictorial cards of scenes with a horizon line that was consistent throughout. The cards could be assembled in a line, in any multitude of configurations, to create a panorama landscape (the possible configurations numbering in the millions).

Taking inspiration from the game, Julia Morison’s Myriorama is a series of paintings, each of which are constituted of a sequence of interlocking panels. Like the game, with its horizon, these panels also feature uniform lines, which allow for one image to seamlessly connect to the next. At points the lines arc ninety degrees, changing direction upward or downward; or fold back upon themselves, enveloping and creating a terminal point.

We might consider these works, with their uniform elements, to be an exploration of the grid (an assertion which is true). Of course, this is terrain well-trod by many an artist across the past century; the grid being synonymous with formalist abstraction, from neoplasticism through to reductivism. And while Morison’s project shares concerns of logic, repetition and pattern, it nevertheless stands in stark contrast with—or rather, a refusal of—the Modernists’ reductivist agenda. These works do not ascribe to a concept of ‘truth’ or harmony, as it were to be attained via a simplification of form; rather the converse seems true.

Within the confines of each panel—or scene, you might say—the lines fold, twist, knot and tangle; they are also at points perforated, eroded, impacted and frayed; and at certain points these lines become elaborate and ornate forms with the hard symmetries which ones associate with the art nouveau, baroque, gothic, Celtic art and classical architecture.

Equally the surfaces of the works speak to conventions across time and space. Nevertheless they are very much positioned in the present: painted on aluminium composite panel and created using machine-cut stencils—both of which are usually used for commercial signage applications—their shapes and linework are constructed with precise uniformity; and yet the paintings’ gesso surfaces, stained with ink, appear aged, perhaps even ancient—as if it were something that had been once submerged, and only revealed by retreating waters. These dull and corroded surfaces intersected with black bands, produced in high gloss automotive lacquer. Indeed the shapes and forms in themselves seem decidedly anti-modern, not only for their ornate appearance, but for the fact that seem to defy a categorisation which would position the synthetic versus organic; meat versus machine. Here we see precise and complex forms, which to make direct reference to the natural, biological and bodily; as well as to inorganic complex systems from circuitry to vector forms. And in so much they present an aesthetic which we associate with the iconic science fiction fantasy illustration work of HR Giger et al, as we do hard-edge painting. It is not by chance that the black collars which bookend many of the works in Myriorama resemble something akin to the clittelum of an imagined robotic worm.

It is with great pleasure that Sumer announces its latest exhibition Julia Morison: Myriorama: 11: the eleventh iteration of series’ presentation (first presented in 2008). This is also the first solo exhibition of Julia Morison’s at Sumer.

Christchurch-based artist Julia Morison is a leading figure in New Zealand art. Over the past four decades she has built a significant body of works which draw on a range of esoteric knowledge systems, including the Jewish Kabbalah, number symbolism, Hermeticism and Surrealism. From these eclectic reference points, she devises methods of ordering and combining materials, images and symbols to recode their various connotations.

Julia Morison (b. 1952, Pahiatua) studied at the Wellington Polytechnic, graduating in 1972 with a diploma in graphic design, and went on to gain an honours degree from the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts in 1975. Since then, Morison has exhibited nationally and internationally and been awarded numerous grants and awards, including the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship in 1989, and the prestigious New Zealand Moët & Chandon Fellowship in 1990, which allowed her to travel to France for a year’s residency. She chose to make France her base for the following 10 years, returning to take up an appointment as senior lecturer of painting at the University of Canterbury (1999–2007). Morison became a New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate in 2005. In 2018 she was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM).

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