Personally, I need to put some kind of order on experience for sake of sanity and negotiation. The Sefirothic structure, or Tree of Knowledge, is really a metaphorical file and folder system for all; a conceptual paradigm for understanding everything. Putting that at the core of my practice gives me the freedom to admit everything and anything, micro and macro, metaphysical and corporeal, as legitimate content. It also gives me an interface to compose works.
As painting students in the ’70s we were introduced to the notion of schools of practice, …isms, and we were encouraged to develop a singular style by experimentation within one genre in a linear and consistent fashion. I was interested in all modes of pictorial representation, abstract and figurative, and did tend to flip from one to another, not within individual works but certainly from suite to suite. The ‘problem’ in the work has been erased by simply choosing not to define myself by a particular mode of practice.
The experiments of the surrealists offer tools that I have employed for generating works. They have been useful for going beyond what one can imagine by admitting a degree of chance. Each part [of Omnium Gatherum] begins with a strict adherence to a formal grid which promotes or restricts the image. I begin with nothing in mind or just the hint of an idea—I draw and see what happens—like doodles. Hopefully each piece is worked up to be visually coherent in itself but what interests me is how they connect, how one is read against another, how one affects another.
Omnium Gatherum was also initiated by thinking about the frame but a frame or framework intervening in the illusionary space. The frame is painted in, or sometimes merely suggested. I think you are right in that these works recall many of the earlier works. It wasn’t a conscious decision to look back but I do tend to pick up threads of things again, rethink and rework them - hence the title a loop around a loop for the survey exhibition.
Although many works are figurative, there is generally a strong formal component. I don’t over-think this. I simply make things in response to different kinds of opportunities, and avoid limiting myself to one exclusive way of thinking.
The [Canterbury] earthquake did make it difficult to paint. Apart from the physical damage and upheaval, the concerns in the work I was in the process of making became totally irrelevant. I’ve also acquired a small electric kiln and am making Headcases - a series of ceramic heads [currently being toured through New Zealand].
- Excerpt from A Conversation With Julia Morison, Priscilla Pitts