Nikky Morgan-Smith

Imaginary Menagerie

August 9 - August 23 2014

In early cultures, imagination and reality were not separated in the way that is habitual to the modern mind. Instead, they represented two equally valid dimensions of existence, the inner and outer worlds. "The idea of the menagerie where wild animals are held captive for display purposes continues to interest me," says Nikky Morgan-Smith. "In a primal way, every animal manifests a facet of human emotion. I visualise the fear but also the humour, be it dark or just utterly ridiculous."

In her new works the cloister-like seclusion of the bathroom again provides a setting for introspection and reverie. "I like the idea of water as an agency for transformation and shape-shifting. The exotic animals appearing out of the steam are representations of things washed or changed," Morgan-Smith reveals. Rich in metaphor, her imagery has both anthropomorphic and self-referential intent. Those fabulous, incongruous creatures also denote the artist's bohemian spirit animated and creative within the confines of the studio.

Morgan-Smith's mixed-media paintings are created without premeditation or the notion of a conclusion so that narratives might spontaneously present. "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," she explains. "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."

Since returning from Europe earlier this year, Morgan-Smith says her studio practice has been a time of creative processing. "The more recent works are a combination of new ideas and techniques in rendering an ongoing theme. I have noticed that my paintings take a lot longer to finish. I am much more methodical in the way I work, the changes have been subtle but they are there," she muses. Spontaneous gesture and assertive brushwork still characterise Morgan-Smith's paintings. Line follows its own energies. Her paint drips and oozes like the trickling runnels of water formed by warm condensation. The new works sometimes incorporate silkscreened, filigree-like patterns. "I have been interested in the way silkscreening in an informal repetition can create the feeling of motion. I love the luminosity that delicate layering creates in the winged works. I also like the rawness of leaving areas of the wood surface visible."

A natural consequence of travelling to foreign lands is the broadening of one's perspectives. Morgan-Smith admits her recent experience of diverse cultures has influenced her imagery. Although bathroom-bound, the exotic creatures now appear to emanate a certain self-confidence. "They seem to be less fragile and displaced, have more movement and purpose maybe," she suggests. Of her upcoming Residency at the ancient, hilltop-situated Le Couvent d'Auzits in south-west France, Morgan-Smith says, "It will be another opportunity for me to really focus on my process and the development of new ideas. I will be working collaboratively with a writer for some of the time. The Residency is in a very isolated rural area and as we do not speak French, we are going to put words and pictures together as a means of responding to our environment and exploring the idea of place."

Nikky Morgan-Smith was Winner of Coriki Art Prize 2011; Highly Commended Belligen Art Prize 2010; Finalist Belligen Art Prize 2010; Border Art Prize 2009; She Art Prize 2009; Highly Commended SCU Student Art Prize 2008. Her work has been represented at International Art Fairs in London, Toronto, Mexico City, Singapore, Amsterdam, New York and Brussels. She holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts, SCU, Lismore and RMIT, Melbourne.


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