Julia Morison ONZM has a prestigious career spanning four decades. She has built a significant body of work across a wide range of media, including painting, photography, sculpture and installation. At the heart of her practice is an interest in investigating, reimagining and recoding a range of existing systems of ordering. She has previously drawn inspiration from the Jewish Kabbalah, number symbolism, Hermeticism and surrealism. A recent series looked to the Victorian card game myriorama to create a collection of works that used a similar sequence of interlocking panels with consistent horizon lines. Though the horizons in Morison’s works can arc ninety degrees, up or down, and even loop back on themselves, as well as twisting, knotting and fraying, so at their most elaborate appear more as forms associated with Gothic or Celtic art, or the Art Nouveau. Though she has a long-standing interest in the Modernist grid, and its accompanying concerns with logic, repetition and pattern, she is just as interested in material alchemy. Though her works embrace formal concerns, she also appears akin to a pre-enlightenment scientist—there is a method to her investigations, but they are not necessarily ones that we are familiar with, or ones that end up where we might expect. In this way, her works have a strange, mystical energy—there is a sense of trying to wrangle into place something that is otherworldly, and only Morison has the correct tools to do it.
Julia Morison (b. 1952, Pahiatua, New Zealand) lives and works in Christchurch, New Zealand. She has exhibited nationally and internationally and been awarded numerous grants and awards, including the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship (1989), and the prestigious New Zealand Moët & Chandon Fellowship (1990), which allowed her to travel to France for a year’s residency. She made France her base for the next decade, returning to New Zealand to take up an appointment as senior lecturer of painting at the University of Canterbury (1999 – 2007). She became a New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate in 2005, and in 2018 she was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM).