Georgia Morgan

The wide, funnelled mouth of 'It is What You Make It,' (2021) is inscribed: ‘this is a hibiscus but it is also 5 red tongues & a portal & a black hole that sucks in all negative energy.’ This could be an apt, self-reflexive description of Georgia Morgan’s recent body of work as a whole — though Morgan continually swerves away from anything so didactic as self explanation.

While vessels hold, portals gesture ceaselessly to elsewhere. When we look at any ceramic vessels, we look at an outside, an exoskeleton. Morgan’s glazed exoskeletons themselves, though, direct their own gaze outwards, taking in iconographical detritus from a wide range of sources. The hollow vessel has eyes, here, and they look back out at us, at our world, and at their own histories. These works assume a hold of material from Morgan’s personal and family histories, memories, and imagination, and collect them without imposing an order — or at least an immutable one. Morgan’s regime of representation refuses to sit still, as images and symbols shift out and away from stratification, or solidity. 

In a text accompanying Morgan’s show at Bett Gallery this month, Lucy Bleach describes Morgan’s pieces as ‘devices for fathoming,’ rather than for ‘remembering’ as such. ‘Fathoming’ is a useful, suggestive word here. It hints at both an emotional registration of the events, objects, and people we encounter, and a sounding of the very furthest, most obscure depths of these things. That is, the term implies an acknowledgement that if we are to look deeply into our (hi)stories, some of what we seek to see will be so far away from our grasp that we have to fill it in imaginatively, and accept the shades of grey or fabulous fabrications which colour our vision as a result. This seems to be Morgan’s modus operandi: she salvages her icons from near and far, from her own experience and others’, creating what Bett Gallery calls ‘portals to memories that are neither hers, nor necessarily real.’

Many of Morgan’s ‘portals’ are adorned with text in the artist’s idiosyncratic hand. This text frequently recounts small domestic tales involving Morgan’s family, especially her mother. Faces — but, whose? — look out at us, often obliquely, as do animals both real and spectacular. The rooster is a recurring character, as are fish, and references to the Singaporean Ayam brand of sardines, which Morgan has found bound up in her own family’s diasporic history, and domestic lives. As such, these pots are sites of incessant transformation, of weirdness and not-quite-intelligibility, but also of intimacy: they hold things close and constantly look away from them, at once. 

Morgan’s own name appears on many of the pieces, often in a large hand — the very hand which crafts these emphatically analogue, non-reproducible constructions, indeed. There is, perhaps, some elision to be made between the ceramic vessel-and-portal and the self as Morgan sees it, here. Dealing with the personal and with the historical at once, these works become fields on which to think about the individual subject, as well, as an accretive thing: taking hold of things remembered, experienced, and imagined, and looking out always for more. 

Fermented Preserves
1 April – 10 May 2021
Bett Gallery, Hobart

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