Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Alex Gene Morrison named as The Guardian's 'Artist of the Week' by Jessica Lack

Levitating relics, exploding skulls and ectoplasm – the paintings of Alex Gene Morrison are undeniably creepy. A self-confessed fan of low-budget slasher movies, Morrison's pictures exude a disconcerting atmosphere of schlock horror in a cloying pastel palette. Pallid colours emerge from bleached-out, vaguely radioactive backgrounds. Slimy acid rain coagulates into sticky pools, forming queasy images of a post-apocalyptic world where reason and reality are subsumed in a gory science fiction.

Born in Birmingham in 1975, Morrison describes himself as a child of gaming and skate culture, having witnessed technological advances from Pong to PlayStation. His work draws on this influence in several ways. Many depict soulless interiors, in which faux-religious symbols or artefacts are given iconic significance, as if the viewer were a participant in an action-adventure game. In his animated film Surfin' the Apocalypse (2006), comic-looking ghosts straight out of Pac-Man glide across the screen before melting into liquid; an atomic cloud erupts and fluorescent circles sail across the sky like a pic-n-mix meteor shower.

Morrison describes his art as tragicomic. He enjoys the dumb humour of a Hammer horror and purposely focuses on the gauche special effects – pickled corpses, melting faces – rather than the spine-chilling atmosphere that became such a fixture in, say, Peter Doig's early paintings. By combining low and high art – disposable culture and oil paint – he reveals the seductive and repulsive qualities of both.

Why we like him: For Black Bile, painted in 2007, a monstrous picture of two blue eyes peering out of a shroud against a pale rainbow background. It won him a nomination for the prestigious John Moores Painting prize last year.

Ganging up: Morrison helped found Rockwell, an art collective and gallery operating out of a disused warehouse in Hackney Wick, set up by graduates of the Royal College of Art and the Royal Academy.

Strange but true: In Tokyo in 2005, while Morrison was exhibiting in a group show, he and fellow Rockwell founder Christian Ward were asked to make an intricate castle out of sugar cubes stuck together with icing, which was then sunk into a giant vat of tea in front of a cheering crowd. "I'm still not sure what the point of it was," he says.

Jessica Lack

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