Malcolm Morley: Sensations: curated by Michael Short

28 April - 10 June 2023

„And so seeing work from a long time period together is pleasurable because not only do you see the diversity, you also see some fidelity... Things change, but they are still true to something. And with that you‘ve got it. Diversity and fidelity.“

- Malcolm Morley


The fundamental aspect, the motor that drove Malcolm‘s passion for painting, was sensation. Sensation being the unmediated bodily response to the outside world through the senses; in this case, the sense of sight. Malcolm admired the art of Van Gogh, Cézanne and Picasso, artists whom he felt were more concerned with presenting the world as something made with paint, to create a new visual experience, rather than being concerned with what the subject matter was ‘about’. Malcolm said he wanted to get the painting directly into the nervous system:


„...the emphasis is very much on the idea of looking at. I paint them from the way in which I’m looking at them, which is really from the point of view of sensations. I feel the sensation of it, and preimagine it made of paint. ...So it’s not just a question of looking, but of doing, in relation to this, in relation to that, in relation to the space between things. In a way, it’s very classical.“


As seen from a 60-year perspective, it seems that any material could be a potential painting for him; the range is overwhelming. But not everything was a final candidate for his painted world - the images he chose were personal and idiosyncratic. Cézanne had his apples, Malcolm had his ships and airplanes from his childhood during WWII. These images were something that engaged Malcolm’s attention, as an affectionately-re- membered association or attraction, and then as a rigorous collaborator that held up to his prolonged scrutiny during the diligent painting process.


The grid he used to format and scale up the images ensured that every square cen-timeter of the canvas received his focused attention, heightening the experience so that the finished painting re-presented his initial sensation with the same concentration. Each square was treated as a small abstract painting of its own, taken all together they make one unified area. Unity in diversity, diversity in unity.


Looking over the course of his oeuvre, one sees he had invented many styles of pain- ting, from Photorealism, Neo-Expressionism, his own brand of Surrealism, and beyond, using a vast assortment of images (postcard images, cruise ships, advertising, beach scenes, airplanes, sports figures, moto- cross racers, knights, castles, etc.), always primarily committed to the sensation of seeing. The paintings are akin to the intense encounter a child has when experiencing the outside world for the first time. When the unknown, the unseen, or the overlooked makes its appearance. Malcolm lived and painted the seeming paradox of manifesting one’s innocence through a lifetime of experience.


Michael Short