Saturday 2nd July 6.00pm – 9.00pm
1st – 10th July 2022
11:00am – 4.00pm
Friday, Saturday, Sunday
Two weekends only
The Owens Collective Showroom , 101 Maitland Rd, Islington NSW
Fleeting is an exhibition of paintings largely focused on time spent on the Hawkesbury River. The work continues an ongoing preoccupation John Morris has with landscape painting. He is concerned, not so much with whether the landscape is recognisable as a place, more about the perceived temperamental and emotional response to the landscape being experienced.
As shadows cast on rising morning mist, the Hawkesbury River has a strange and haunting beauty, which has drawn him back to engage with the landscape, over and over. Escarpments shadow the river, as does its history, both ancient and recent. The paintings are paired back, minimal, subtle works, which reveal themselves slowly. Horizons and shorelines alternate throughout the exhibition. Atmosphere, both as a natural phenomenon and an emotional response, fill the space created in each of his paintings.
FLEETING – THE LUMINOUS LANDSCAPES OF JOHN MORRIS
A NEW EXHIBITION – JULY 1 – 10, THE OWENS COLLECTIVE
The wait is finally over for fans of acclaimed Newcastle artist, John Morris, whose new exhibition,
Fleeting, opens at The Owens Collective on July 1.
The long-awaited exhibition features atmospheric paintings of the Hawkesbury River landscape-
subtle studies in light and shade with a haunting, ephemeral beauty that reveals itself slowly to the observer, marking the passage of time and evoking an emotional response.
Covid postponed this exhibition three times. A result of this delay was that the heart of the show was sold without a public showing and had to be created again. The artist’s last exhibition was held in 2020 and also featured paintings of the Hawkesbury River landscape. A couple who purchased a work at that show, offered Morris the use of their home at Milson’s Passage located on the Hawkesbury. He took the opportunity to visit the small, isolated community, hiring a dinghy and exploring hard to reach places including Bar Island, where he found the ruins of a chapel and the graveyard of early white settlers.
While he was there, Morris would rise at 5am to bear witness to a silver, foggy landscape shaded by the escarpments and within half an hour, as the sun began to rise, it would burn off the fog creating flames of dancing mist in shafts of white light.
“I was struck by the ephemeral nature of what I was seeing. One minute it was there and the next, it was gone. It was etched in my consciousness, and I became obsessed with capturing these moments in time, their transience and precariousness,” said Morris. “In this show I focused on the water surface, not so much the bigger spaces, escarpments and plateau, but fell into concentrating on the reflections, tides and mist of the river.”
“There’s a lot of play between light and dark, luminosity and shadow both with paint and the
emotive themes in the works. Reading Kate Grenville’s novel Secret River or Grace Karskens’
People of the River has set a focused lens through which we can view the Hawkesbury River and
its colonial and Darug past. I am hopeful that the emotive tonality of the exhibition gives an
indication to this history.”
Morris’s process includes working from photographs which he crops to focus in on what is holding his attention. From there he creates compositional sketches that help clarify format and scale. He paints with thin layers of oil, working wet in wet and building up the paint over a period of time.
“The trick is knowing when the painting has come to life and to stop working on it before that life is destroyed. The last work usually lays the foundation for the next, working with an idea that was found in previous work. A beautiful structure or a good idea can be mined again and again.”
Morris knows what he’s talking about. A leading light in the art education sector of Newcastle for over 25 years, running the Newcastle Art School at TAFE, the artist has mentored thousands of students in his time, although he no longer teaches. His website lists countless exhibitions and awards with the most recent being shortlisted in the 2022 Muswellbrook Art Prize and being a finalist in the 2019 Moran Portrait Prize. Well represented in public collections, the highly respected artist is supposed to be retired.
“I don’t really see my art as a gift – it’s more of a curse,” said Morris. “The obsession to do better, to keep striving, never leaves, never stops, so retirement is eluding me.
Earlier this year, Morris was caught up in the Wickham warehouse fires and the resulting asbestos contamination, with his home and studio being affected, which severely delayed the flow of his work. After deep cleaning and much time had elapsed, the artist was just getting back into his groove when a fall from a bicycle landed him in hospital for surgery on his painting arm.
“I was feeling like life was back to normal. I’d been working on a piece and wanted to check the
light and colours at Nobby’s Beach. I was feeling quite joyful until I fell.”
When asked what the future holds, Morris talks about landscapes with a difference.
“I’m interested in doing landscapes that are not of the earth – SpaceX rockets launching, NASA
moon shots and Martian terrain. But of course, it could all change.”
One thing is certain, Morris is a highly sought-after artist. Catch this exhibition while you can
because as its title suggests – Fleeting – is only showing for two weeks. Buyers will also need to
hurry, as Morris’s work is likely to sell out.
1 – 10 JULY
THE OWENS COLLECTIVE
OPENING NIGHT Saturday 2nd July 6.00pm – 9.00pm
GALLERY HOURS 11:00am – 4.00pm Friday, Saturday, Sunday Two weekends only
LOCATION 101 Maitland Rd, Islington NSW
CONTACT firstname.lastname@example.org 0416 803 328
CATALOGUE AND PRICING www.johnmorrisartist.com.au