Simon Morris: Blue Water Colour, Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, New Zealand

Simon Morris, Daily Painting #19, 2011

June 18 – September 18, 2011

Wellington artist Simon Morris is well known at The Dowse for his permanent commission Rainscreen, which welcomes visitors to the gallery and was the inspiration for The Dowse logo. In this exhibition, Morris creates a site-specific wall painting that explores the structures and boundaries of abstraction, considering the possibilities of paint within an architectural space.

Blue Water Colour comprises a series of 50 brushstrokes, each directly applied to the gallery wall. The painting unfurls from almost entirely blue pigment in the first brush stroke to almost entirely clear water in the final, moving from dark to light across the wall. The work is made in a single session, with water added at each stage to slowly diffuse the colour.

The exhibition continues Morris’s interest in the relationship between painting and architecture; the way that colour and form can activate and inform our sense of a space.

Whether applied to a building or to a canvas, Morris’s paintings concern themselves with geometric abstraction and the possibilities offered by self-imposed restraints of scale and palette. Central to these limits is the framework of time, sometimes directly signalled within the title itself; for example, Black line there and back 3 hours and 15 minutes 2009 or Yellow line 1 hour 39 minutes 2009. As a result, static paintings can be described as time-based; in the artist’s words “time gets focused”.

Blue Water Colour tracks time but also records the physicality of its making. The height of the work is defined by the artist’s arm reach; the width of each line reflects the scale of the brush used. Each brushstroke is utterly unique and handmade within Morris’s carefully calculated restrictions, and it is this contrast between rigidity of form and the organic quality of edges and overlaps, that reveals the humanity in the work.

Time is also an important factor in the series of little canvases titled Daily Paintings. These works come from a regular exercise undertaken by Morris upon arrival in his studio. Unlike the reductive method of Blue Water Colour, where colour is slowly leached from the work, the Daily Paintings are accumulative. Each day sees another application of pigment, which builds up in visible layers.

Simon Morris has said of Daily Paintings: “My interest in noting time in this way is that it suggests there is also a passage of time involved in conceiving the work, planning and preparing, then also the time in which the work sits in the memory of the viewer after the viewing experience.”

The exhibition Blue Watercolour continues the relationship between Simon Morris and The Dowse Art Museum begun with commissioning Rainscreen in 2006, a permanent work at the entrance to the building. Morris has exhibited widely, including the group exhibitions Reasons and Rhyme, Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne, 2011; Telecom Prospect 2007: New Art New Zealand, City Gallery Wellington and Satelites, Vanguard Gallery, Shanghai, 2006. Solo exhibitions include Simon Morris: Painting Project 2000-2005, The Physics Room, Christchurch, 2005. He is represented by Two Rooms, Auckland.