by Dilpreet BhullarSep 08, 2022
"The Turbine Hall!” exclaims the London-based Annie Morris on her dream exhibition venue. A wonderful draughtsman, a woman with limitless imagination and a strong personality spreading hope and inspiration, Annie Morris opens doors to her world of authoritative and imaginative fluid lines as she seeks solace in her artistic practice. “I arrive around 9 am and I like to start with drawing and sewing. The day goes so fast as I work on a number of things at the same time,” shares the visual artist, giving a quick overview into her routine. From roughly matted totem shaped stacks to child-like scribbly oil stick sketches and intricately sewn tapestries, Morris’s art not only represents a vibrant eye-candy but also a metaphoric depiction of major life lessons of hope and inspiration.
As one enters Morris’s countryside studio - situated in Northeast London in the United Kingdom – a forest of precariously stacked sculptures welcome one to her creative space. Quite renowned for this signature style, the installations form the core of Morris’s artistic endeavour. The sculptures - some tall while some short - comprise irregular shaped rock like structures stacked one above the other, coated in saturated pigments of ultramarines, turquoise, ombres, crimsons, lavenders, and greens. Described in one word as “defiant” by Morris, these totem stacks were conceptualised as an emotional response to a tragic incident, when Morris and her husband Idris Khan suffered the loss of their first child to stillbirth. Standing tall against all odds of nature, the ‘stacks’ become means of refuge in the face of life’s uncertainty and fragility. They appear jubilant and grand but hold sombre undertones of loss and despair. “My sculptures come from a very traumatic time and they have become comforting to me,” she adds. What seeded from grief in 2014, has today become a visual of joy and hope for audiences far and large.
Some of Morris’s latest Stacks are currently housed at the magnificent pavilion of Château La Coste, designed by Oscar Niemeyer. Co-curated by Georgina Cohen, Morris’s vibrant totemic towers poetically nestle and sinuously coexist within the white curvy space overlooking a shallow adjacent pool, surrounded by vineyard-dappled wonderland. Her smaller newer additions often consist of three-tiered stacking – a visual idiom possibly suggestive of a female form or a pregnant woman. Expressing her excitement as a debutant in this space, Morris shares, “This exhibition was such a highlight for me! I was excited to install my new six metre bronze in the stunning French landscape neighbouring a classic Louise Bourgeois’ spider.”
Apart from the stacks, Morris’s recent childlike crayon and oil stick sketches have gained a lot of fame and accreditation. She animates renditions of everyday life hidden beneath modestly titled artworks such as Toy Train, Forest Walk and Two Owls, to name a few. Isolated in the English countryside and distanced from her studio during the pandemic, Morris began these imaginative sketches sans limitations, purely driven by gestural freedom and the subconscious mind. Recollecting memories from the pandemic days, Morris shares, “I would go into a very energetic state usually late at night while making them [paper works]. I like to use speed as a way of translating subconscious and automatic ideas, repeating shapes that interest me and colours that I may have noticed on walks.”
The very same idea of repetition noticed in the signature Stack series dominantly demarks Morris’s paper works. Sketched in vivid jewel tones these symbols include a reclining female body, face masked by a flower in bloom and zig zag intersected ladders. The most prominent one being the surreal woman with a flower in full bloom. “The flower women initially began as a portrait of my mother and has now become a way of putting myself into my tapestries and drawings. Flowers are extremely fleeting and for me they speak of endings and loss,” shares the British artist.
While intimate drawings and sketches always formed the starting point of the multimedia artist’s creative expressionism, Morris also shifted to hand sewn tapestries. The delicate and intricate thread work introduced a new dimension to her artistic practice. Weaving between abstraction and representation, the embroidered pieces made her animated series come to life, with deliberate over stitching in certain areas to such an extent that they often rumpled up. Morris states, “I have always seen my work as sitting between sculpture and painting. When I sew my drawn line, the lines intensify and feel more alive in a way. There is a conversation about time in tapestries as there is intense speed when I make the drawings and paintings and the sewing is extremely time consuming. In my new tapestries I am playing with different ways of overlaying sewing and trying to use thread like paint.”
Morris is a visual storyteller. Her vibrant colourful art encapsulates the viewer into her narrative world. Juxtaposing abstraction and representation, reality and surrealism, hope and despair, her art culminates into a delight for the viewers. There is an energy of positivity and hope that beautifully comes across to the people as they consume, reflect and experience Morris’ world of ultramarines. While her recent show culminated in France, we can’t wait to see Morris’ magic unfold once more. “Idris and I are opening a show at Newlands House Gallery in Petworth in February 2023. I am also working on a show in Seoul later in the year,” she signs off.