Born in Newcastle, John Morris attended art school from the age of seventeen. Morris spent years in New York and London, working as a landscape garden designer. The great European and North American fine arts collections always beckoned.
Returning to Australia, Morris devoted over twenty years to teaching at the Newcastle Art School, TAFE, for which he has an outstanding reputation.
Morris has held twenty solo exhibitions and his paintings have been included in numerous public survey exhibtions as such as ‘New Romantics’ at Gippsland Regional Art Gallery (2011) and ‘Painters and Perception’ at the Newcastle Art Gallery (2010).
Morris’s work has regularly been short-listed for local and national awards, most recently winning he Norvill Art Prize (2013) and the Newcastle Club Foundation Art Prize (2018).
He is represented in public collections including The Newcastle Art Gallery, Macquarie Bank, Maitland Regional Art Gallery, Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery, amoung others; his work is also held in countless private collections in Australia, New Zealand, the USA and the UK.
Painting As Falling
(Into The Arms Of The Sublime)
Who truly hears a calling? For John Morris, painting has always been more of a falling. An avid expressionist from early childhood and a precious adolescent protégé of paint, Morris works into the endless skies and eternal distance of nature.
He find the muse anywhere in the world – snow covered pastoral hills in Spain, sea locked headlands along the Hunter coast – but it’s always an edge to dance on, a metaphorical fall close at hand.
A reductive abstractionist by desire, Morris is forever falling back to earth, into the arms of the sublime. The heavens fall too: he makes it his task to arrest these errant vapours, the monumental weight and effervescent light of atmosphere corralled into his canvases. Almost, but barley contained. Below the mountains lone trees recur like passing strangers as sure as punctuation.
Virtuosity can be dangerous mistress and a painting practice sustained over decade’s runs the risk of exhaustion. Morris’s heart, wit and tenacity are his only guide ropes. Everyone can learn to paint – Morris can teach them – but falling into painting’s darkness without falling apart is the trick. Evoking the magician’s slight-of-hand, he delivers elegant transcripts of the falling process. What we receive are paintings redolent with psychological chiaroscuro, the surface appearances as easy as summer rain but borne of darker clouds.
Morris is a serious and sincere artist in the tradition of man-against-(his)-nature. But he laughs at his own mortality, and creativity, he never rests easy. A series of hard-edged painting experiments exhibited in 2014 alongside his trademark romantic landscapes point to this irreverence and to Morris’s will to explore at the threshold of experience.
Una Rey (2015)