Two distinct suites of work, made 15 years apart, have been brought together for this exhibition by Julia Morison, encompassing a variety of approaches and media, with an attention devoted to materiality, and making manifest ideas she has been exploring in a career spanning more than three decades. In the first, From the Book of Shadows from 2002, the artist combined the illusion of painting with the reification of sculpture. At initial sighting the works defy convention with their apparent mass and weight of concrete. If the artwork was able to be handled, the artifice would be evident; the heavy cement is simulated by lightweight synthetic sponge saturated with acrylic paint. The paint sits not on the surface but is embedded within the support creating a painterly effect rather than a painted illusion. The most visually baffling of these are the Quartos works. With their ‘frames,’ the viewer questions whether they are vast skyscapes, seascapes, landscapes or a lifesized excavation of a humble natural marine sponge. Morison’s practice is driven by the desire “to make things to be looked at”, her “hope is that you will look and then look again.”
The second suite of work Things, 2016-17 extends the original Things exhibition at Two Rooms in 2013, sculptures made predominantly from discarded objects. These new Things are similarly collaged from found items but repurposed into vaguely anthropomorphic wall sculptures. Similar to the pieces in From the Book of Shadows, they are not what they seem and carry the symbolic associations of objects that have had former lives as useful and functional things artfully reincarnated .
From the Book of Shadows was briefly shown in 2002 and then put away until Sarah McClintock, curator at the Suter Gallery, requested some Things to include in her exhibition The River Lie; musings on realism and artifice in 2016. Morison suggested that the forgotten works From the Book of Shadows might be a better contribution. McClintock selected two Quartos and some Ciphers. It was from this conversation between curator and artist that a relationship between the two suites of works was considered and this exhibition presented an oppportunity to bring them together under the title Things from the Book of Shadows.
Julia Morison currently lives and works in Christchurch She has been the recipient of overseas residencies and exhibited internationally, receiving the Moet and Chandon Fellowship in 1990 which enabled her two take up residence in France and it became her home for 10 years. On her return to New Zealand she was appointed Senior Lecturer in Painting at the University of Canterbury, a position she held until 2007. She was made a New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate in 2005 . In 2006 a major survey exhibition was curated by Justin Paton for Christchurch Art Gallery and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Julia was included in the 2010 Biennale of Sydney with a major installation at the Sydney Opera House and was inducted into the Massey University Hall of Fame in 2012. After the 2011 earthquake Morison was commissioned by the Christchurch Public Advisory Group to build a sculpture for the flattened city. Titled Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers, it is a cluster of 10 wooden hexagonal rooms with planted canopies of vines climbing on fibreglass rods. They provide a place for the people of Christchurch to stand within, stressing the importance of shelter and psychological strength of the community and hope for regeneration. In 2016 Morison’s work featured in Spirit Level an exhibition curated by Ewen McDonald for the relaunch Sydney’s famous Yellow House gallery.