click here for the South East Cultural Centre websites original publication of the interview; or read the whole interview transcript below.
Richard Carr; What led you to become an artist?
Stephen Morris; I have always had a wild imagination. I never really lived in the real world growing up, I would draw a lot when I was a kid, one thing I remember was my incessant habit of talking with my drawings while I would draw them, conversations between me and the figures drawn, or a spoken narrative unfolding as the lines would appear on the page. Sitting in the backseat of the car as a kid looking out the side window and tracing the contours of powerlines and foliage with my eye at lightning speed as the car would drive along. Observation was always there, what a thing does, animate or inanimate how you can adopt characteristics from mannerisms to lines.
RC; Who have been some of your biggest influences and why?
SM; Insert obscure artist that no contemporary artist or discourse has examined, heard of or referenced substantially to date here; _____________________. (To prove that when they do enter widespread discourse or gain recognition, that you alone always knew their relevance and brilliance, making you brilliant and relevant also)
Oscar Schlemmar, the writings of Gerhard Richter, Jutta Koether, Marsden Hartley, Laura Owens, Merlin James, Phillip Guston, Matthew Barney, Albert Oehlen, Manet, Andy Warhol, Johnathan Lasker, Jean Michel Basquiat, Richard Tuttle. Combination of humour, brains, theatrics, stylistic issues, guts, poetry, sex appeal.
RC; What are you working on right now?
SM; Currently working on some lectures on paintings histories. Working on some interviews with artists for my blog “The Elasticline”, thinking about Romanticism, reading about the Gold rush in California, and practicing my drawing.
RC; Tell me about your working process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
SM; I like to read about painting and about art, I think about them both a lot, I think about paintings inherent qualities and its ability to operate with a quality similar to osmosis in relation to everything around it or opposing it. I suppose you could say that my working methods share similarities to music and theatre. Contrapuntal structures/thinking which is an attribute inherent to music, and Improvisation and intuition play a huge part in the work too. An exchange between the artwork and myself as the artist, researching, looking, thinking, living, doubting, result in the artwork becoming what it needs to be. Storytelling and narrative is becoming more important for me now again.
RC; Could you describe the environment in which most of your work takes place and does this in any way affect your practice?
SM; I suppose there are two places, one is in my mind as I live in the world, and then the other is in the actual physical reality and circumstantial moments happening while working with the artwork in a studio environment, usually they don’t match up, maybe because they have existed before in my mind so existing again in physical space seems too literal or futile. I travel a lot so my environment changes, in the last year I have had studios in Ireland, France and the U.S ranging from office blocks to garden sheds, I try to fit the studio essentials into a suitcase when I travel: paints, brushes tools for building frames etc. My latest solo exhibition in Lyon in February was created so that the contents of the whole exhibition could fit into a single suitcase, that was the first time I have set parameters like that, it was also relevant to an art historical context in France.
RC; Do you experiment with different materials/processes a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
SM; I experiment, I am cautious of specific artistic identities, of doing a single specific thing, modernism’s idea of the individual, I think about what can be done to be truly abstract when I am painting, Pollock wanted to paint like nature, Warhol like the machine, can you paint like a nobody? It’s like Manet’s ‘Olympia’, the iconography of a painting, what is depicted, however complex, cannot be separated from the way in which it is represented on the canvas. I think making artwork is not dissimilar to method acting. Shouldn’t everything depicted have its own way of existing separately from any singular artistic vision? You need to be the thing, the idea, the aesthetic, however it then needs to reach a point where it goes beyond a masquerade of facts and observations into the inexplicable, something that escapes me, goes beyond the facts, creating relationships elsewhere, or modifying how we feel or think we know about a thing or circumstance already.
RC; Within the wider ‘art’ field do you feel the type of work you make is important today and why?
SM; Maybe (I envision a heavily fertilized art field here), I like to think that nothing is really ever fixed, a lot of contemporary art is fragmented and branched off from modernism to give it its legitimacy (mine included), you either work with that genealogy or you don’t. The relationships between art and marketing, design, science and education is so blurred these days. I engage with histories whether that be cultural, art historical, social, or even the innate history of the artwork I am working with on a day to day basis. The question for me is more about whether history is important and how important is human experience anymore.
RC; If you could jump 10 years into the future where would you like to see yourself and your practice?
SM; Playing the game better.
RC: How do you feel online art networks/ communities like the South East Cultural Centre could better support you and your work?
SM; I think artists should get more feedback with the unsuccessful applications/proposals they apply with from the various online art networks. This would be a more accurate way of seeing where the agendas and interests lie for each awarding body. Something you said recently Richard too, that more artists should be involved in the selection process for artists opportunities, I agree, however I am a not talking BA or MA graduates only, I would include artists with no artistic education too. South East Cultural Centre could support me better by buying my work and promoting me internationally through their connections and networks.
RC; Is there anything else you would like to add?
SM; Valar Morgulis!