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On Display: how Annie Morris turned tragedy into totems of grief and hope

Annie Morris’s sculptures, drawings and tapestries, soon showing at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, are pregnant with meaning and profoundly personal. Her pieces linger quietly between figuration and abstraction, but one thing’s for certain: they all stack up

Chloë Ashby
On Display: how Annie Morris turned tragedy into totems of grief and hope

At first glance, Annie Morris’s brightly coloured sculptures seem bouncy and light-hearted, but beneath the strong hues is a sense of fragility that’s hard to shake. The irregular spheres teeter precariously to form columns that would make even the most jaunty of Jenga towers seem stable.

The British artist began her Stack series after experiencing a stillbirth in 2010 (happily she and her artist husband, Idris Khan, have since had two children). From this period of grief emerged these rounded forms that hint at swelling bellies, their wonky alignment nodding to the vulnerability of the human body. Together with expressive tapestries and drawings created throughout her career, a selection of these sculptures will be on show at Yorkshire Sculpture Park from 25 September.

Morris studied first at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris and then at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. Her practice draws on her own memories and experience, the subconscious and the history of art, and covers sculpture, textiles, painting and drawing. No matter the medium, her works hover between representation and abstraction, hinting at subject matter and meaning without adhering to traditional notions of line and form. Her brushwork is varied, her palette made up of rich and luminous shades of mustard yellow, leafy green, sky blue. Within her freewheeling drawings and tapestries are suggestions of grids, flowers and trees, as well as the female form and motherhood.

The Stack series started with a sequence of drawings – simple egg outlines that later developed into 3D orbs handmade from plaster and sand. When Morris coated them with raw powdered pigments in ultramarine, viridian and ochre, the balls began to assume an air of optimism and hope. Over the years, these towers, which arose from a personal tragedy, have grown in both height and daring; different sized spheres are piled on top of one another at increasingly chancy angles. Some are cast in patinated bronze and shown outside.

When A Happy Thing Falls, Morris’s first solo museum exhibition in the UK, isn’t the artist’s only outing this autumn. You’ll also spot one of her playful, pigmented creations at the 2021 edition of Frieze Sculpture, and some of her most recent pieces will go on display at Timothy Taylor in London. In every composition, fragility and strength and lightness and gravity all hang in the balance. There’s an instability to Morris’s art, but at the same time, a rootedness is present. It’s about the uncertainty of human life, and human resilience.


Further reading

Annie Morris,When A Happy Thing Falls is at Yorkshire Sculpture Park from 25 September 2021 until 6 February 2022

Frieze Sculpture

Annie Morris at Timothy Taylor

Annie Morris on Instagram

Image credits:

Annie Morris with diaries. Photograph © Idris Khan; Annie Morris, Stack 9, Copper, Blue, 2020. Photograph © Stephen White; Annie Morris, Stack 3, Cadmium Red, 2020. Photograph © Stephen White; Annie Morris with diaries. Photograph © Idris Khan

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