For Simon Morley’s third exhibition at Art First, he tackles the conundrum of Utopia, an appropriate subject for the editor of the Whitechapel Gallery’s recent publication The Sublime. As writer and artist Morley constantly explores and examines society and its mores. The book paintings and text works (collages, sculptures etc.), for which he is best known, constitute meditative reflections on the signifiers on which we rely.
This show self-avowedly refers to his new home in Seoul, and the near-visible ‘utopian’ construct of North Korea. He writes: “… a few dozen miles north lies a monstrous nation… its leaders persist in the most absurdly ruinous and barbaric attempt to realize Shangri-La…”
Morley takes Frank Capra’s 1937 film Lost Horizons as a lodestone. In his introductory essay for the exhibition, the writer Ryan Bishop tells us: “In Morley’s stunningly varied monochromatic vision, the Lost Horizon proves lost and found at every turn, every fold, every surface. The paintings, scrolls, screen, video, postcards with text, word lists, watercolours and book paintings offer negative spaces for critically thinking what it means… to lose a horizon for good and ill. America and Asia as visually constructed imaginaries vanish down the perspectival hole Morley erases, re-invokes and re-visions”.
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