Julia Morison: Omnium Gatherum: Alembic

7 July - 7 August 2021
  • Sumer is pleased to present Omnium Gatherum: Alembic, a group of ten new paintings (all 2021) by acclaimed New Zealand artist Julia Morison ONZM. The paintings are the latest in an ongoing series of work that the artist first began six years ago, but whose enquiry and methodology connects to much of the artist’s expanded practice, which spans five decades.  

     

    ‘Omnium gatherum’ is a grand term for a collection of miscellaneous things. Things that have been brought together but whose purpose or significance as a grouping is not immediately apparent—unlikely to adhere to a hard logic, such as that of modern science, or rationalism­­­­­­­­­­­­­ (the status quo perhaps). Additionally, the term omnium gatherumdescribed by some as ‘Dog Latin’—is, etymologically speaking, is also a mishmash of Greek and Latin, first appearing in pre-Enlightenment texts. The symmetries that coalesce its meaning and derivation make it particularly apt for the work of Morison, who seems to delight in highlighting in moments of both apropos and contradiction.

    • Julia Morison Omnium Gatherum 63: Alembic, 2021 graphite, oil, sheet lead and wax on PVC board and timber frame 100 x 70 x 4 cm
      Julia Morison
      Omnium Gatherum 63: Alembic, 2021
      graphite, oil, sheet lead and wax on PVC board and timber frame
      100 x 70 x 4 cm
    • Julia Morison Omnium Gatherum 64: Alembic, 2021 graphite, oil, carbon and wax on PVC board and timber frame 100 x 70 x 4 cm
      Julia Morison
      Omnium Gatherum 64: Alembic, 2021
      graphite, oil, carbon and wax on PVC board and timber frame
      100 x 70 x 4 cm
    • Julia Morison Omnium Gatherum 65: Alembic, 2021 graphite, oil, ochre and wax on PVC board and timber frame 100 x 70 x 4 cm
      Julia Morison
      Omnium Gatherum 65: Alembic, 2021
      graphite, oil, ochre and wax on PVC board and timber frame
      100 x 70 x 4 cm
    • Julia Morison Omnium Gatherum 66: Alembic, 2021 graphite, oil, dog shit and wax on PVC board and timber frame 100 x 70 x 4 cm
      Julia Morison
      Omnium Gatherum 66: Alembic, 2021
      graphite, oil, dog shit and wax on PVC board and timber frame
      100 x 70 x 4 cm
  • In Morison’s work we often witness a demonstration of her enquiry into language and meaning. Reaching back through space and time, she draws reference to systems of knowledge that sit largely outside of the dominant paradigm—speaking to the archaic, pagan, mystic and anti-modern. Of particular significance to this work, as with other past works, is the Jewish Kabbalah; and specifically the ten attributes of the Sephirot. Morison takes this order and merges it with another equally archaic form, alchemy; ensuing a new elemental order of her own choosing: lead, ash, clay, shit, pearl, blood, oxidized iron, silver, gold, and ‘transparency’.

     

    An alembic isan alchemical still: an apparatus consisting of two vessels joined with a tube, through which a material can be refined with heat. By titling the set of works as such, Morison makes clear they are intended as a distillation of a sort. Indeed, each panel represents one of her ten materials. But whereas with earlier works such as 1,m0n0chr0mes (1996) presented these elements in simple monochromatic form, here they are far from it. Rather, they are elaborate and dynamic images that ribbon, snake, twist, radiate, grow in, across and out of the hard geometric grid continuing through the multiple paintings, binding them to one another. As with much of Morison’s work, they defy simple explanation—delighting, it would seem, equally in esoterica and paradox. 

    • Julia Morison Omnium Gatherum 67: Alembic, 2021 graphite, oil, pearl powder and wax on PVC board and timber frame 100 x 70 x 4 cm
      Julia Morison
      Omnium Gatherum 67: Alembic, 2021
      graphite, oil, pearl powder and wax on PVC board and timber frame
      100 x 70 x 4 cm
    • Julia Morison Omnium Gatherum 68: Alembic, 2021 graphite, oil and wax on PVC board and timber frame 100 x 70 x 4 cm
      Julia Morison
      Omnium Gatherum 68: Alembic, 2021
      graphite, oil and wax on PVC board and timber frame
      100 x 70 x 4 cm
    • Julia Morison Omnium Gatherum 69: Alembic, 2021 graphite, oil, oxidised iron filings and wax on PVC board and timber frame 100 x 70 x 4 cm
      Julia Morison
      Omnium Gatherum 69: Alembic, 2021
      graphite, oil, oxidised iron filings and wax on PVC board and timber frame
      100 x 70 x 4 cm
    • Julia Morison Omnium Gatherum 70: Alembic, 2021 graphite, oil, silver leaf and wax on PVC board and timber frame 100 x 70 x 4 cm
      Julia Morison
      Omnium Gatherum 70: Alembic, 2021
      graphite, oil, silver leaf and wax on PVC board and timber frame
      100 x 70 x 4 cm
    • Julia Morison Omnium Gatherum 71: Alembic, 2021 graphite, oil, gold leaf and wax on PVC board and timber frame 100 x 70 x 4 cm
      Julia Morison
      Omnium Gatherum 71: Alembic, 2021
      graphite, oil, gold leaf and wax on PVC board and timber frame
      100 x 70 x 4 cm
    • Julia Morison Omnium Gatherum 72: Alembic, 2021 graphite, oil and wax on PVC board and timber frame 100 x 70 x 4 cm
      Julia Morison
      Omnium Gatherum 72: Alembic, 2021
      graphite, oil and wax on PVC board and timber frame
      100 x 70 x 4 cm
  • Those less familiar with Morison’s practice are often confounded by its material and stylistic breadth. Certainly, in the past decades we have seen the artist working across painting, sculpture, ceramics and assemblage; from monochromes to figurative busts. Superficially they might give the impression of being independent and unrelated, but this could not be further from the truth. As per the title for her 2006 survey exhibition, A loop around a loopwe can seeMorison’s practice operating as a large wheeling spiral: always continuing to move forward—and not unlike life itself, is punctuated with moments with radical shifts and rupture—yet it is an enquiry which inevitably loops back on itself, picking up and adding to earlier themes and concerns. Through her art, Morison has created an expansive interconnected matrix, rich with both ideas and feeling. She is an artist with immense creativity, intellect and drive, the likes of which one struggles to draw parallel, be it here and elsewhere.   

     

     

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    The pre-Enlightenment discipline of alchemy attempted to transform base materials such as lead into precious ones such as gold. Long since surpassed by modern chemistry, alchemy survives as a potent metaphor in the works of many contemporary artists [...]. As Morison has said, artmaking is like alchemy in that it transforms worthless matter - a painting, after all, is only coloured stuff spread on fabric - into valuable and sometimes priceless objects. The giddy pleasure of art is that the transformation is metaphorical, not actual, and can always be revoked. Artist and viewers turn mere matter into objects of desire, by the force of their own invention and conversation. In short, the difference between shit and gold is one of perspective rather than intrinsic worth and by colliding those material extremes, Morison invites us to recognise ourselves as makers of value not just passive receivers of authorised judgements.

     

    – Justin Paton

     

     

    • Julia Morison 1,m0n0chr0me No.524:2 + 1,m0n0chr0me No.102:2 , 1997 ash on board, blood of the lamb on board 25 x 37.5 cm
      Julia Morison
      1,m0n0chr0me No.524:2 + 1,m0n0chr0me No.102:2 , 1997
      ash on board, blood of the lamb on board
      25 x 37.5 cm
      View more details
    • Julia Morison Segue 6, 2020 acrylic on canvas 200 x 150 cm
      Julia Morison
      Segue 6, 2020
      acrylic on canvas
      200 x 150 cm
      View more details
  • 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).