Mali Morris: Three Ghosts
Opening Reception: Thursday 17 November, 6-8pm
Hales New York, 547 W 20th Street, New York, NY10011
Hales is delighted to announce Three Ghosts, a solo exhibition of paintings by British artist Mali Morris RA. This debut exhibition at Hales celebrates the consolidation of five decades of immense inventiveness in exploring the language of painting.
Morris (b. 1945 Caernarfon, North Wales) received a BA in Fine Art from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1968, studying the Basic Course under Richard Hamilton. She went on to study the MFA at the University of Reading, run by Terry Frost. Arriving in London in the 1970s, Morris met many artists, who in turn introduced her to the American post painterly abstraction of Helen Frankenthaler and Kenneth Noland. Today Morris's practice resonates with the history of painting - of all periods, including abstract expressionism and modernism, and now has ties to a younger generation of painters in both Britain and the US. Her first major exhibitions were at the Serpentine Summer Show 3, London, 1977 and the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 1979. Since then, she has exhibited world-wide, and has been included in numerous group shows, at the Barbican, Hayward Gallery, Whitechapel Gallery, London, as well as many others. Morris was elected Royal Academician in 2010 and became a Senior Royal Academician in 2020.
Three Ghosts presents a selection of paintings made between 2007 - 2021, highlighting Morris's rich vocabulary of techniques and ideas. The works developed from the artist's 'clearings' paintings of the 1990s in which paint was scraped away in a central motif, later moving towards a complex layering and meshing of figure and ground. In her paintings Morris strives for luminosity, not 'brightness of hue, or the illusionism of shading, but an actual source of particular light. Light makes space apparent, and space in painting is always on the move, as the eye weaves through it, even though the painting itself is still.'1
Three Ghosts takes its title from the three large works in the show; epic in scale and proportion the paintings play with transparencies, color configurations and spatial contradictions. The exhibition combines these monumental paintings with small, jewel like works, creating moments of both expansiveness and intimacy.
In Morris's process there is a constant constructing and deconstructing to allow different forms, color chords and rhythms to emerge. In the first layer of painting, she prepares a patchwork or checkerboard of strong saturated colors as the ground. The bright squares are subsequently buried under a juicy layer of paint. Whilst the paint is still wet Morris creates the circular forms, where the paint is wiped away - excavated to show the colors below. These 'constellations of clearings' arrive through a repeated process of hiding, revealing and discovering, until a clarity and luminosity is achieved.
Working intuitively, in varying pressures of touch, Morris's brushstrokes read as drawing, taking the eye in different directions. The transparency or opacity of paint is crucial, achieved with mediums and gels, contributing to the complexities of pictorial space. Incidents during the making become an important part of the picture. Each painting has a simple, direct entry point, which then slowly reveals nuances, details and spatial events. In palimpsestic works, the physical trace of laying down paint remains. Compact, intense and intimate, color constructs luminosity, creating an extra dimension of space and a joyous dance for the eye.
Morris's work is held in many collections worldwide, including Arts Council England, British Council, Contemporary Art Society, Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge, National Museum of Wales Cardiff, Pallant House Chichester, Royal Collection and Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester.
Morris is the recipient of awards, scholarships and residencies, and has taught and examined in Departments of Fine Art across UK, including University of Newcastle, University of Reading, Royal College of Art, Slade School of Art, and Chelsea College of Art and Design, where she was a Senior Lecturer from 1991 - 2005. She was Professor of Painting at RA Schools from 2019 - 2020.
A monograph was published by the Royal Academy in 2019, Mali Morris: Painting, to coincide with the exhibition, Mali Morris: On paper, and Immediacy, her selection of work from the Royal Academy's Collection, displayed in the new Collections Gallery, London.