JAMES MORRISON: PORT DAVEY, TASMANIA
Catalogue text by Sandra Bridie in conversation with James Morrison
James Morrison’s excessive, fantastical paintings, in this exhibition, combined the exacting empiricism of botanical painting, the over-ripe exoticism of orientalist art, the awkward rendering of colonial landscape painting, and the narrative drive of magic realism. Despite their eccentric narrative, and hallucinatory world view, Morrison’s paintings have proven to be intensely autobiographical, informed in part from memories of a childhood upbringing in Papua New Guinea: ‘I guess that's where the colour and the 'exotic' in my work come from, and the colonial aspect in the work came from an awareness of being a white person in someone else's country’. Morrison’s paintings also engaged the complexity of painting the Australian landscape, through reference to artists as diverse as Glover, von Guerard and Namatjira: ‘I have always had a problem about how to acknowledge an indigenous presence, but now I am thinking that its absence is more telling than any trite symbolism I could conceive’. Based upon the remote coastal region of Port Davey, Tasmania — a place that the artist has never visited — Morrison’s idyllic landscapes and bittersweet tropical tales were imbued with a naïve yet romantic sensibility, with wild elements of humour and humidity, sexuality and sadness.