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Callum Morton

Monument #28: Vortex  2011

polystyrene, epoxy resin, sand, wood, synthetic polymer paint, enamel paint, glass, steel, vinyl

330 × 380 × 132cm

Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the MCA Foundation, 2016

2016.10
on display

About the Artwork

For Monument #28: Vortex, Callum Morton has constructed a life-size replica of a 1960s shopfront, with plate-glass windows framed in modernist white timber and blond brick. It is the kind of shop that might be expected to house a small family-run business on a suburban high street, a familiar space of commerce and community exchange. Morton disrupts the ordinariness of that space by filling it with solid rock, through which he hacks a tunnel. The mouth of the tunnel, pressed hard against the shop door, tapers to a smaller aperture five metres away, revealing a view of the outside world on the other side.

The tunneled sandstone, like the blond brick shopfront, is a sham – made from polystyrene and paint – but the space it describes is real enough. It is a space in which the manmade and the natural world collide, pressing up and opening out onto one another, offering escape through door or hole. Morton has produced a number of works drawing on urban environments, particularly the utopian ideals of modernist architecture and its sometimes dystopian lived experience. In works like International Style (1999) he suggests the secret and sometimes messy world of human action lurking behind clean, functionalist facades, highlighting the disparity between theory and practice in the ways we live our lives.

Monument #28: Vortex replaces the human element behind the closed doors with a natural one, opening up a portal from business end to back end, from built to excavated. In doing so, he toys with the disparity between what facades reveal and conceal and hints at the political realities of Australia’s mining boom, commodifying natural resources as it drills deeper into the earth.

Callum Morton

– About the artist

Born 1965, Montreal, Canada. Lives and works Melbourne.


Callum Morton’s installation and sculptural practice is inspired by architecture and the built environment. His works explore human interaction with architectural space and ideas through scale models and facades of well-known buildings. He represented Australia at the 2007 Venice Biennale with a scale model of his childhood home, designed and built in the 1970s in a modernist style by his architect father.

Since then Morton has exhibited nationally and internationally in group shows including You Imagine What You Desire, 19th Biennale of Sydney (2014); Australia, Royal Academy of Arts, London (2013); Negotiating this World: Contemporary Australian Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2012); Forever Young: 30 Years of the Heide Collection, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2011); Mirror Mirror: Then and Now, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane and Samstag Museum of Art, Adelaide (2010); ARCO O8, Madrid, Gimpel Fils Gallery, London (2008); and Cinema Paradiso, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2007).
Selected solo shows include Neighbourhood Watch, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne (2014); The Insides, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney (2012); Callum Morton: In Memoriam, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2011); Ghost World, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane (2010); Grotto, The Fundament Foundation, Tilburg, The Netherlands (2009); Through at this & that, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne Art Fair, Melbourne (2008); Valhalla, Ca Zenobio, 52nd Venice Biennale (2007); and Tomorrow Land, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Perth, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Victoria, Gippsland Art Gallery, Sale and Dubbo Regional Gallery, NSW (2007). A solo exhibition of his work, Callum Morton: More Talk about Buildings and Mood, was presented at the MCA in 2004.

Morton was commissioned by Melbourne Theatre Company as set designer for Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities in 2013. Other public commissions include Silverscreen for The Marc and Eva Besen Commission, Monash University Museum of Art, Monash Caulfield Campus, Melbourne in 2010 and Hotel at the Eastlink Freeway, Melbourne in 2008.

Morton’s work is held in numerous state, regional and university collections in Australia, and international collections including Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand and Fondazione Morra Greco, Naples.

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