Nikky Morgan-Smith

Shaping Water

April 20 - May 11 2013

"Art does not reproduce the visible, rather, it makes visible." Paul Klee

The art of Nikky Morgan-Smith might well be thought of as embodying Klee's notion of unleashing the wanderings of the subconscious through gestural freedom. In her works drawing and painting unite to express a host of often fantastic, metamorphic imagery set amidst vapory bathrooms.. "The bathroom is a private, revitalising space, the domestic base for monotony to turn into adventure," says Nikky. "A place of reverie behind a closed door. "

The bathtub has been a recurring motif in art history. Jacques Louis David, Pierre Bonnard and John Olsen each variously employed it, but for Nikky, "it is a vessel to hold a fantasy." Her antique bathtub with legs like those of some fabled, clawed animal is the receptacle in which narrative unfolds. In many world creation myths water is the primordial fluid from which all life emerges. A mysterious substance symbolising cleansing and renewal, water also has associations with the intuitive and the feminine, as well as the creative processes. "I like the idea of water as an agency for transformation and shape-shifting," Nikky confides. "The exotic animals appearing out of the steam are representations of things washed or changed. Always, they represent facets of human character, human emotions."

Augmenting this idea of potentiality, Nikky's new body of work has a nighttime cadence, as evidenced in the deeper blue of her palette and titles of the paintings. Night signifies a period of restorative rest and the realm of dreaming. It is a fallow period before new growth. The painting Heavy Water has a sad-eyed elephant seated heavily in a dissolving bathtub, its rainbow hues fading. It is as if the animal is adrift on a seemingly endless vastness in a none too sturdy vessel. No horizon or other point of reference can be discerned, just interminable blue, dripping, sliding water. Its curl-tipped trunk is raised, perhaps in salutation or scenting for signs of liberation, maybe just bailing water? The work's title conjoins ecological and introspective concerns with a wry dash of humour.

In the painting Midnight Safari, water steaming from the showerhead surrounds a zebra like a dense, sultry mist. Head turned towards viewer and stripes rising from its body like a crest of chunky feathers, the animal seems well content despite our intrusion. From layers of overpainting traces of times past surface, or submerge, through the enveloping deep-night wall. A real plughole in the corner signifies the portal of release and the draining away of dross.
Nikky's mixed-media paintings are created without premeditation or the notion of a conclusion so that narratives might spontaneously present. Line follows its own energies. Her paint drips and oozes like the trickling runnels of water formed by warm condensation. "I think some of the time the painting just writes itself. The creatures' facial expressions have evolved, not quite accidentally, but as the result of my being more involved with the process rather than the outcome," explains Nikky. "I never push or plan a painting, I let it tell me where to go and running with those urgings, somehow the characters of the animals reveal themselves."

Nikky Morgan-Smith is based in the NSW North Coast. She holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts degree from Southern Cross University, Lismore cross -institutional with RMIT, Melbourne 2004. She is the recipient of the Coraki Painting Prize 2011 and has been represented in International Art Fairs in London, New York, Toronto, Amsterdam, Brussels and Singapore.




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