papier mache and ink mounted on wood in perspex case
46.3 × 49.9 × 20.5cm
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2009
This work, made from moulded papier-mâché, is an object stranded between sculpture and drawing. It started out as a flatter work on paper, but grew in depth as moulded birds, animals, insects and flora were added to it and drawn over in fine pen. The fragile construction looks like something that might have emerged from the forest floor, carefully assembled by a discerning fossicker. James Morrison spent his childhood in the highlands of Papua New Guinea and this formative period has been hugely influential in his development as an artist. His subject is nature – an intense, slightly malevolent version that befits the environment of his youth. The stories and myths from his Papuan experience have shaped his thinking as an artist, in particular in the way he merges the natural world with the imaginary and the mythic. He has said of this work:
This object was the first sculptural drawing that I did. It started out as a relief and then grew out. Also a few other little papier-mâché works I was making at the time were incorporated into it, hence the difference in papers. I had been thinking of taking the flat work I had been doing and expanding it, literally outwards, though mainly with my painting. I had such a small studio it seemed easier to play around with the ideas as drawings and small papier-mâché objects. It came about out of frustration at the flat impenetrable surface. I needed something I could move around in. A more expansive space. The feeling of walking into the bush.
James Morrison, July 2011.
Updated and approved August 2016.
Being brought up in Papua New Guinea has had a huge influence on me, especially in terms of how I think about the natural world [and] the merging between myth and reality, where animals assume human qualities and humans adopt animal characters. James Morrison, 2008.
Born 1959, Goroka, Papua New Guinea. Lives and works Sydney, New South Wales.
Trained as a florist, James Morrison’s work is concerned with the natural world and the Papuan landscape of his childhood. His work encompasses painting, drawing and sculpture, and has been exhibited in Australia and overseas. Recent solo shows include A History of Robotics, Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney (2011); Antique Egypt, Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney (2008); and The Great Tasmanian Wars, Gippsland Centre for Art and Design, Monash University, Melbourne and Dunedin Public Art Gallery, New Zealand (2005).
Group exhibitions include The Past is Easy, Kings ARI, Melbourne (2013); Wilderness: Balnaves Contemporary Painting, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2010); Before and After Science: 2010 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (2010); Living Deadly, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne (2010); I Walk the Line: New Australian Drawing, MCA, Sydney (2009); The Ecologies Project, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne (2008); Look! New Perspectives on the Contemporary Collection, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2008); and Otherworlds, King St Gallery on Burton, Sydney (2007).
Morrison’s work is held in a number of collections, including Monash University Collection, Melbourne; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville, Victoria; and the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria.Learn more