Devotion to the substance of oil paint marks this inaugural solo show by Suzi Morris, as she presents a mini-retrospective exhibition of large-scale paintings alongside some smaller works. This is the first time that Morris has exhibited diptychs and triptychs that comprise both aluminium and canvas.
“My paintings are the result of a process of embodying my imagination’s relationship with what I experience within my body” – Suzi Morris
This new body of work draws on the artist’s everyday experience of sharing her body with an unwanted virus in her eye, which affects her vision. The paintings of the Viral Sublime expose a symbiosis between oil paint(ing), virology, and contemporary concepts of the sublime. Exploring the organic substance of oil paint and its relationship with the behaviour of viruses, Morris constructs a narrative of sensations in which personal and historical references intersect.
Each canvas is composed of veils of translucent colour as the paintings evolve through an experimental process of composition and erasure. The works are full of internal thresholds leading the eye between translucent pools to denser blocks of colour.
“Morris has coined the phrase ‘the viral sublime’ for her painterly investigation of viral landscapes, these hidden, almost fantastical worlds that will either support or destroy the organism that hosts them. One of Morris’ most powerful and enigmatic paintings, ‘The Naked Virus’, (2017), perfectly captures the artist’s acute understanding of the nature of the virus to act as either as a benign or malicious force that can radically determine our lives.
The tender blue-purple hues and the delicate mobility of the brushstrokes invite us into something that seems surprisingly warm and sympathetic. It has the grandeur and elusiveness of the work of Ross Bleckner, a New York painter who was drawn to represent his emotional response to AIDS and loss. Like Bleckner, Morris moves nimbly between a surface beauty and a darker undertow: the healthy-looking body and the unseen deterioration under the skin. Is this sumptuous image in ‘The Naked Virus’ a ghoul’s lair or a regal Jacobean neck ruff? Would the ruff adorn or choke? Are those zombie-like roses tumbling out or into it? There is a smug and chilling omnipotence about its presence – its ability to live without air, to cause death so soundlessly. Morris’ ability to hold the poles of viral power to bestow or betray life so in balance is astounding.”‘Of Blooded Things: the paintings of Suzi Morris’ by Cherry Smyth.
As viruses are now digital avatars in genomic medicine, one of Morris’ objectives is to highlight how genomics is revolutionising mainstream healthcare and what it will mean in general medical practice. The implications of these modifications are vast, generating questions about the proximity of Huxley’s Brave New World where the natural processes of birth; ageing and death are no longer recognisable.
Dr Suzi Morris was born in Ayr and originally studied Illustration and Design at Kingston University; the City & Guilds of London Art School where she completed an MA in Fine Art before undertaking a practice-based Professional Doctorate in Fine Art at the University of East London in 2017. Formerly an art director in film, in 2016 she co-founded the da Vinci Artists Residency and had since been awarded a da Vinci Artists brush in her name. She now lives and works in South London and will feature in ‘The Residency’, a documentary to be released in 2018. Her work has featured in several exhibitions in the UK and Germany with work held in private collections in France, Germany, Thailand and the UK.
Suzi Morris ‘The Viral Sublime’ 28 Nov – 16 Dec 2017 Herrick Gallery, 93, Piccadilly, Mayfair, London, W1J 7NQ