Art Auction

Planet209 Revisited: Past and Present Relics of Visual Experiments

31 Jan 2024 – 27 Apr 2024

Regular hours

10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00

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Bethlem Gallery

England, United Kingdom

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A major new retrospective of artist Sue Morgan. Covering three decades of work, Planet209 Revisited showcases Morgan’s fascination with alternative realities and scientific exploration.


‘Planet209 Revisited’ shares a selected body of work made over three decades by the artist Sue Morgan at Bethlem Gallery in South London. Morgan began drawing when schizophrenic illness forced her retirement from corporate law in the late 1990s. She has said that “none of what I do is serious” but the 200 works shown in this exhibition address issues in ways that can be very serious – as well as scientific, artful and playful – and demonstrate Morgan’s wide-ranging artistic practice.

Bethlem Gallery is a gallery and visual arts organisation based at Bethlem Royal Hospital in London. Working across South London and the UK, Bethlem Gallery makes art an everyday practice, and mental health an everyday conversation through installations and exhibitions.

Morgan’s art began as a therapeutic practice to “get all this crap out of my head”. Her later works evoke a spirit of scientific exploration, with echoes of architectural blueprints and research notes. But their subjects are often the alternative realities that are created within her “mad head”, planets populated by microscopic creatures who exist in an impossible and wretched state of perpetual happiness.

After completing a doctorate in German philosophy, Morgan trained and worked as a corporate tax solicitor before becoming ill - the number 209 in the exhibition title refers to an obscure piece of tax law she was working on at the time of her first hospital admissions. Unable to use her analytical skills, Morgan started to draw. She was forced to retire from her work, did a degree in drawing, and has not stopped making art since.

Early works made in hospital can be interpreted primarily as mood diaries, whereas later works are more research-based documents about neuroscience and phenomenology, culminating in The Various Lives of Thought: Fictional Machines, Thought Droppings and Mental Maps (2008), initially shown at Camberwell College of Arts as part of Morgan’s degree show, with later renditions at the London Art Fair and at Sarah Myerscough Fine Art. Vestiges of this voyage in the cortical seas can be found at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the Bethlem Museum of the Mind.

During time spent in Wales Morgan conducted an experiment in the local pub trying to instantiate a mental image on small bits of paper called Hairy Building on a Hill (2015). She was commissioned to produce a cover image for the schizophrenia supplement published by Nature, and collaborated with them and Dr Sukhi Shergill to make a short video entitled ‘Schizophrenia: What’s In My Head?’

In the summer of 2023 Morgan was part of an exhibition in the Bethlem Gallery called “Elsewhere” where she introduced a series of drawings about animal stones. First invented in hospital, animal stones are imbued with the characteristics of being both immortal and being afflicted by a default state of happiness (a wretched and impossible combination).

Morgan is currently working on a series of drawings, entitled The Philae Settlements (2023-2024), created in response to the grief she felt on hearing that the robot lander (Philae), lying on its side “in a deep crack in the shadow of a cliff” on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, was switched off, to be left in isolation and darkness. The drawings are accompanied by an installation called The Sirens of Philae (2024), a collection of beacons calling out to “non-existants”.

Morgan maintains that she has no self-identity as an artist but is instead engaged in a visual making of footnotes to an increasingly large and desolate blank text. In fact, if asked what she does, she is apt to reply that she has “not decided yet”.


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