6 - 23 October 2010

Fiona Morgan

Fiona Morgan recasts somehow familiar feeling shapes and objects in abbreviated geometric forms and monochromatic yet colourful hues: chalky pink and lime gloss. The nice thing about Morgan’s paintings is that they offer inklings of optimism and authenticity in a contemporary art landscape that relies heavily on insincerity and irony for effect. They are vivid—her surfaces lush, tactile and beautiful to see—but they manage to avoid falling into the category of the sugary sweet or worse, the self-serious. At times, they’re awkwardly ungainly, lines twist at uncomfortable angles, converging or swerving when conventional expectations of balance and composition insist that they shouldn’t. Her wall work, for instance, pried loose of the confines of the support (painting as something more active, more utilitarian than the discrete, decorative object), ignores too the parameters of the space, breaching the architecture of the gallery to enter into the real, lived space of the viewer. For an approach customarily based so rigorously on precision, surfaces are left nervously raw or deliberately coarse to hint at a playful exchange between surface and support; it is this kind of tension between sincerity and artifice that speaks of contemporary society’s anxiety with appearances. And it is precisely this degree of imperfection, I feel, in a category of art making that traditionally we know to be flawless, that distinguishes Morgan’s paintings from what we’ve seen before.

The stylistic lineage to which Fiona Morgan’s practice is heir is a difficult one to broach, not in the least because it is positioned at the brunt of a revisionist post-modern era of qualifications and rejections which has recast formal concerns in an all but positive light. And yet, its precarious position in relation to history—recent and long-standing—is, I would argue, precisely that which makes it all the more interesting and defiant a position to be in today.

manifold asynchronous temporalities now begin to emerge along the faultlines drawn by the geopolitical regimes of modernity… Historical time is again of the essence, only that this historical time is not the linear and unified timeline of steady progress imagined by modernity, but a multitude of competing and overlapping temporalities born from the local conflicts that the unresolved predicaments of the modern regimes of power still produce.1

This, an extract from a recent text on the contemporary function of appropriation, speaks of a re-engagement with the un-finished projects of modernity. While some are calling it ‘re-modern’, here, neo-non-objective, alter-concretist or post-op would do just as well, though no one’s big on labels these days and it is precisely this openness that allows such re-engagements room to breathe in a contemporary context. In fact, according to Sydney artist and writer Billy Gruner in another text entitled Post-Formalism in Recent Australian Art2there is a spate of new Australian non-objective painting going on at the moment which he attributes to a kind of regional Australian art history (informed—in part he believes—by indigenous painting) that stands outside/alongside the major historical trajectories of international style.

Like multiple lines of perspective, Morgan’s rich, slick lines project beyond their supports to stretch, at once, back through history and forward in time, converging and diverging in unexpected inclinations and twists.

Brooke Babington - 2010

1. Jan Verwoert, Apropos Appropriation: Why stealing images today feels different, Art&Research, vol. 1, no. 2, Summer 2007.
2. Billy Gruner, Post-Formalism in Recent Australian Art, co-published by SNO Contemporary Art Projects and Minus Space on the occasion of Upside-Down, an exhibition of work by artists associated with SNO, at Minus Space, Brooklyn, NY.