Sue Scott Gallery

Malcolm Morley

Alfred MacAdam
Art News, April 2012

Malcolm Morley crafted these 19 images (17 monotypes, one linocut, and one watercolor on Mylar) between 2006 and 2009. Most are devoted to his signature subject: violent scenes of airplans and ships. Morley's imagination is like a grab bag, where past and present mix until summoned to life, as in a 2008 monotype that resurrects the clash of Spitfires and Messerschmitts during the World War II of his childhood.

These aggressive images initially resemble children's-book iillustrations. Their colorful, cheerful palette instills a sese of innocence in the bloodshed of aerial combat. The men escaping their sinking ship in Abandon Ship I (2008), for example, might be sightseers and the corpses sunbathers. But beneath the bright surfaces lingers a melancholy no amount of color can dispel.

Rushing to Miami (2006) is fraught with horror. The curise ship is about to sink, and the tourists, partially dismembered, are flying through the air. The ghostlier version of this monotype, the watercolor on Mylar that Morley used as a plate for the print and retitled Sailing to Miami (2006), is no less terrifying despite its faded aspect. The objects in the picture reverse their placement in the monotpe, but the curiously balletic violence remains the same.

Helter-Skelter (2008) reconfirms Morley's obsession with the unexpetced presence of mortal danger in the most innocent of places. In this work, beachgoers are being strafed by a seaplane. Clearly there can be no pleasure unaccompanied by danger and pain.

This elegiac note, the idea that al the images commemorate loss, is most blatant in the potentially saccharine linocut Elsa with Ball and Border (2009), where we realize that the black border surroundung the dog, Elsa, derives from the black border on mourning stationery. Even more plaintive is Lifeboat (2009), with a tiny boat in the middle of the sea, a metaphor for the artist alone in the brilliant but ominous ocean of his imagination.

Exhibitions