It is a great pleasure to welcome Michele Morcos back to the gallery for her second solo show with us.
This particular body of paintings on wood and paper coincidentally and happily mirrors Michele’s and my experience of the Australian interior. In her artist statement below, Michele speaks of being overwhelmed the first time she went into outback NSW in her early 20s. These emotions are similar to what I felt at 12 when I stood atop a rocky hilltop and looked across the expanse of country in the foothills of Harts Range, NT that was to be my home for the next five years. I, too, likened it to a spiritual experience, as did my husband, Dirk, when he visited the outback for the first time in 2012.
There is an undeniable power that flows through this country. The Indigenous people have known this for tens of thousands of years – they feel it deep within every fibre of their soul – but those of us who live in built-up areas are too distracted by the noise and bustle of urbanity to feel it.
Looking at Michele’s works in this exhibition, I am instantly transported back to where I grew up: the sights, sounds and smells of the bush come flooding into my Now. Her textures and rich colours express the wonder and power of this ancient land; a deep respect for its spirituality and its traditional owners is evident in every brushstroke. The authenticity of these works tells the viewer that she is fully present in those spaces as she paints, at one with the country, despite being in her Sydney studio. Such is the power of art to move and transport us beyond our here and now, regardless of whether one is the creator or the viewer.
Some of you may remember from her exhibition with us two years ago that I mentioned we’d been at art school together in the mid-1990s. For nearly 30 years I have observed Michele’s art practice evolve and deepen. As I look upon her assured strokes and confident compositions of today, I can see her maturity as an artist; her new works in this exhibition are evidence of decades of accumulated knowledge and continual refinement of her technical skills to the point that they have become innate. This freedom from self-consciousness is something few artists achieve, and it is this freedom that gives her work a crystal-clear lightness and graceful balance.
But that’s enough from me. Michele’s artist statement speaks beautifully about how these paintings came into being. I hope that you find them as evocative as I do.
ARTIST STATEMENT | MICHELE MORCOS
The landscape shapes my memories.
My memories shape the landscape.
While we sit within this period of liminal time* we may look for comfort, both mentally and physically. This comfort may be found in the simple routines of the day - reading a book, taking a walk within nature, talking to a close friend or listening to music on the couch. Something…. Anything…. that allows us to feel grounded and safe, while the systems of order and routine that used to rule our weeks are suddenly in flux and in an altered state of chaos.
In the past two years I have found comfort and a sense of calm in my studio - dreaming, reimagining and painting landscapes of places I have visited in Australia. Beautiful spaces that make my soul happy - filled with colour memories and a sense of light. I wanted to see if I could trigger a happy mental and emotional response in the here and now, without physically travelling and standing in these places, creating a type of virtual travel for these times of closed borders and lockdowns. A way of setting the mind free and opening your field of view, until we are able to travel again.
In 1996 I had the privilege of travelling and discovering the beauty and energy of Mutawintji National Park, Broken Hill and Fowlers Gap that are on the traditional lands of Malyankapa, Pandjikali and Wilyakali peoples, in Far Western NSW. I was overwhelmed and emotional at being in this landscape - filled with ancient Songlines and a kaleidoscope of colour and light. I felt like I had discovered the key, or source, akin to having a spiritual experience.
For a long time I was not sure how I could describe and creatively articulate this sensory experience.
And so I waited.
With borders and travel routes reopened I was able to travel back to Mutawintji, 26 years after that first trip.
And it felt like not a day had passed. This new series of works for ‘The Enlightenment’ solo exhibition with Galerie Zadra captures some of the colour, beauty and light from my trip in April – continuing the conversation that was started many years ago.
*Concept of liminal time from the writings of Prof. Genevieve Bell, Director of 3A Institute, ANU
BIOGRAPHY | MICHELE MORCOS
Michele Morcos is a multimedia visual artist with a studio practice in Sydney, Australia. She graduated from UNSW Art & Design (Collage of Fine Arts) in 1999 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting/drawing) and a BA Honours in Art Theory.
Michele has exhibited her work in eight solo exhibitions and over twenty group exhibitions throughout Australia. She has been selected twice as a finalist for The Brett Whiteley Art Scholarship and also for major prizes such as the Mosman Art Prize, and the Urban EDGE contemporary art prize.
During the past 10 years, Michele has lectured and taught at Macquarie University, and in a number of art galleries including ADC: Australian Centre for Design in Sydney. She has also completed Artist-in-residence programs in Australia & overseas. In 2016 Michele collaborated on a public art project with doeanddoe to create a ten minute hand drawn animated film for Transport NSW’s Wynscreen project, while exhibiting a new collection of works for her seventh solo exhibition at Koskela Gallery in Sydney.
In March 2018 Michele exhibited a new installation art piece for Art Month 2018 in the red project: a group exhibition curated by Alison at The Coal Loader Site in Balls Point Sydney, and in September, exhibited her eighth solo exhibition in Sydney entitled Everywhen : sensory displays of affection and alight, that focused on painted, drawn, sculpted, and coil woven artworks.
In 2020 Michele exhibited new work at Sabbia Gallery, the Jamfactory in Adelaide, a capsule collection for Galerie Zadra and completed her 9th solo exhibition at Chrissie Cotter Gallery in Sydney.
In April Michele travelled back to the stunning traditional lands of the Malyankapa, Pandjikali, Wanyuparlku and Wilyakali peoples in Far Western NSW, to complete a drawing and painting research trip for a new collection of works to be exhibited in Sydney and Switzerland in 2022.