Paul Morrison - Phenotype
29 October 2003—10 January 2004
Galerie Michael Janssen, Cologne
Nature is in bloom. It conveys the slightly cloying charm of a comicbook landscape, in which Chip 'n' Dale might well be casting around for their next exploit. Nature is in bloom, but two important factors are missing: the colours of those lush fields and those outsize blossoms, and the figures that would The scenery seems suspicious - like the proverbial calm before the storm or the silhouette of a deceptive idyll.
Paul Morrison works exclusively in black-and-white. There is nothing exceptional about this in the context of cartooning, which has evolved from line drawing to coloured comic strip; but it is a marginal phenomenon in the colour-based history of painting. And yet Morrison himself speaks of his canvases and wall paintings as highly colourful images.
This springs from a conception of painting based not only on predefined forms but on associated colours, the choice of which is not exactly bias-free either. This is the step that Morrison leaves to the viewer.
As viewers, however, he tends to wrong-foot us. We are called to heel as soon as things seem in any danger of getting to comfortable. Among the soft contours of a comicbook idiom, Morrison sets pitch-black horizons or incisive fence palings; or he fills in a black sky, against which the whole arrangement emerges only as a negative. Bland though these precisely composed images may appear at first sight, at the decisive moment they subvert out visual habits and our associated ways of imaginatively completing images. Which is where Chip 'n' Dale come in: the comfort of a romantic picnic in the country is anathema to them. As soon as we try to make ourselves at home inside one of Morrison's images, in they come as saboteurs. The longer we stay with the painting, the more ingenious are the traps they set for us - invisible, but omnipresent.
Text: Ralf Christofori
Paul Morrison - Phenotype, Installation view, 2003, Galerie Michael Janssen, Cologne