Morgan Blair grew up in a rural part of central Massachusetts as an only child, a lonely upbringing which she says probably led her to become an artist. “Drawing and painting have always been my favourite things to do since I was little, because it’s a good thing to do by yourself,” she explains. “I ended up going to Rhode Island School of Design for illustration, and after graduating and continuing to pursue that path kind of half-successfully, I started making more abstract paintings, trying to separate myself from the rules I had learned in school about what would make an successful image. It’s just gotten weirder from there, although now some representational forms are creeping back in.”
We stumbled across Morgan’s work in 2012, when we admired the peach-hued graphic sensibilities which peppered her work. Back then, Morgan told us she was trying to “relinquish control” of her work, passing up planning for happenstance, a process which continues for the artist.
“A few years ago I was planning out almost everything in Photoshop before transferring it all to the panel or canvas and airbrushing it in,” Morgan expands. “It’s easier and faster to try out a lot of different layering and colour options, and to morph and tile the imagery etc. And, it was comfortable to start the painting knowing what I was going to do – working improvisationally can be hard for me. With my most recent work I’ve been letting go of that control more. I make weirder choices when I haven’t thought ahead so much, and the painting feels more personal and interesting to figure out visually when every last move isn’t planned out in advance.”
Freed from the constraints of self-expectation, Morgan’s paintings have become more complex, demonstrating an ease in combining unexpected textures with gloopy patterns and a heavy dose of gradient. That graphic sensibility echoes louder than ever and click of a computer mouse is never far away: Morgan’s titles taken URL into IRL by seizing the mind-numbing hyperbole of internet clickbait and re-purposing it to comic affect. Above all, Morgan’s work is fun. When I Saw Gwen Stefani’s Miniature White Chocolate Kitchen My Jaw Dropped, All My Hair and Teeth Fell Out, and I Impulsively Started My Own Web-Based Lifestyle Branding Pop-Up Fragrance Experience (Scientists Were Shocked!) Featuring 72 Must-Have Human Rights You Won’t Believe Really Exist, But That Really Do Exist At The Bottom of Oreo Pence’s Pool Full of Listerine, Watch Til The End! reads one. ExistentialRoundUp.Gov Top Weekly Clicks: What Type of Motocross-Themed French Onion Chili Cheese Log Do You Need In Your Life Just in Time for Soul Cavity Bleaching Week™? The Results Will Shock You! WATCH: Meaningful Video Appears To Show Fetus Pumping Gas From Within The Womb! And, 25 Life Hacks That Transform Ordinary Household Objects Into Cute Mason Jar Organisers For All Your Whiteness, Cheesecake Ideas! Click Like suggests another.
“They’re a mix of cliches and general sentence structures used in clickbait article titles, and personal, pop-culture and political references that I free associate and mix up together,” Morgan explains. “I use them as a format for playing with the absurdity of the time we find ourselves in, as well as a suggestion that there could be a lot more weird, unexpected stuff to find in the paintings. I’m largely focussed on straddling the line between abstract and representational, so I like when someone tells me: ‘Oh, I only just now realised I’m looking at a person!’ But, then the titles are an opportunity to inject a bunch more highly specific and hopefully funny and relevant context than just a person in a space. Like, yeah it’s totally a person – but what if it were Ann Coulter chowing down on a Slim Jim outside Banana Republic at the Steamtown Mall in 1992? Maybe it’s the illustrator in me that wants to tell a story after all. And I have some pathological need to make you laugh if I can.”
In process terms, Morgan hasn’t strayed too far from her roots. “I’ve been sourcing imagery from the internet like before, mostly YouTube, but instead of taking it into Photoshop and manipulating it and coming out with close to a finished image to paint, I just use Photoshop to quickly make a line drawing over it with the major shapes represented, or use a fat brush to colour them in so they get a little chunkier,” she says. “Or, I might do a similar drawing on paper. Then I draw that sketch onto the canvas without too much concern for whether I’m adhering to the original proportions and exact shape of the forms, so everything becomes a little distorted. So, I still have a loose jumping off point and framework, but I don’t hold onto them so tightly anymore. I like getting tripped up and having to make new decisions.”
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