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b. 1952, New Zealand

Julia Morison Biography

Julia Morison's diverse practice spans a variety of media including painting, photography, sculpture and installation. In each of these modes of expression, Morison investigates the possibilities of dense logic systems to create geometric structures, worlds full of symbols bursting with organic life, or both at the same time. She began her studies at the Wellington Polytechnic School of Design, completing a Diploma in Graphic Design in 1972, and then an Honours degree in Fine Art from the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts in 1975.

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Morison initially came into the public eye in the 1980s and 1990s with highly formal geometric abstract paintings focused on structural methods of interpreting the natural world. During this period, Morison was particularly interested in the number symbolism found in the Jewish doctrine of Kabbalah. Using Kabbalistic numerical systems—particularly the number ten, based on the idea that ten creative forces intervene between the infinite, unknowable G-d and the earthly world—Morison made many works, including Quiddities I–X (1989), a set of ten light boxes in which her gloved hands are visible reaching in to the picture plane, adding and moving elements of the image.

Morison was awarded the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship in 1988 and undertook the Moët & Chandon contemporary art residency in Avize, France in 1990. She continued to live and work in France until her return to Christchurch in 1999 to lecture in painting at the University of Canterbury, a position she held until 2007. In 2005 Morison was made a New Zealand Foundation Art Laureate. A survey exhibition a loop around a loop: Julia Morison, curated by Justin Paton was co-produced by Christchurch and Dunedin Public Art Galleries in 2016. She continues to live and work in Christchurch.

From September 2010 a series of earthquakes devastated Christchurch and the Canterbury region. After these earthquakes, for the first time, Morison turned her hand to public sculpture. 'The earthquake did make it difficult to paint', Morison told Ocula Magazine in 2015. 'Apart from the physical damage and upheaval, the concerns in the work I was in the process of making became totally irrelevant.' Out of the post-earthquake environment, Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers was commissioned and built. Her first public sculpture effort, the installation sits on the corner of Gloucester and Colombo Streets in Christchurch. It comprises ten hexagonal modular open-air rooms that are able to be moved around the city's various vacant sites. Morison designed the structure to act as a social facilitator. To that end, Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers has hosted weddings, poetry readings and also acted as a popular lunch spot for nearby workers.

In 2012 Morison was inducted into the Massey University College of Creative Arts Hall of Fame and in 2018 was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the visual arts. She has exhibited extensively throughout New Zealand and internationally, including being selected for the Sydney Biennale in 1992 and 2010. Her work is held in many New Zealand public gallery collections including the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

Casey Carsel | Ocula | 2018

Julia Morison Featured Artworks

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Segue VI by Julia Morison contemporary artwork
Julia MorisonSegue VI, 2020Acrylic and varnish on canvas
200 x 150 cm
Jonathan Smart Gallery Enquire about this work
Segue V by Julia Morison contemporary artwork
Julia MorisonSegue V, 2020Acrylic and varnish on canvas
200 x 150 cm
Jonathan Smart Gallery Enquire about this work
Segue IV by Julia Morison contemporary artwork
Julia MorisonSegue IV, 2020Acrylic and varnish on canvas
200 x 150 cm
Jonathan Smart Gallery Enquire about this work
Segue III by Julia Morison contemporary artwork
Julia MorisonSegue III, 2020Acrylic and varnish on canvas
200 x 150 cm
Jonathan Smart Gallery Enquire about this work
Whisper 1 by Julia Morison contemporary artwork
Julia MorisonWhisper 1, 2019Oil on canvas
126 x 97 cm
Two Rooms Enquire about this work
Head[case] working drawing 76 by Julia Morison contemporary artwork
Julia MorisonHead[case] working drawing 76, 2019Ink on rag paper
33 x 24 cm
Two Rooms Enquire about this work
Head[case] working drawing 56 by Julia Morison contemporary artwork
Julia MorisonHead[case] working drawing 56, 2019Ink on rag paper
33 x 24 cm
Two Rooms Enquire about this work

Julia Morison Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Julia Morison, Segue at Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch
Closed
13 March–14 April 2020 Julia Morison Segue Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch
Contemporary art exhibition, Julia Morison, Um/Er at Two Rooms, Auckland
Closed
6 December 2019–17 January 2020 Julia Morison Um/Er Two Rooms, Auckland
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Roundabout at Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch
Closed
29 November–21 December 2019 Group Exhibition Roundabout Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch

Julia Morison Represented By

Julia Morison In Ocula Magazine

Julia Morison Ocula Conversation Julia Morison By Priscilla Pitts, Wellington

Two thousand and fifteen marks the 40th anniversary of New Zealand artist Julia Morison’s first exhibition. Morison studied graphic design at Wellington Polytechnic in 1970-2 and painting at the University of Canterbury in 1973-5. After showing a number of severely formalist paintings she took a break from exhibiting: from this came two very...

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Julia Morison In Related Press

Artist's New Year honour: 'We don’t value the arts highly enough' Related Press Artist's New Year honour: 'We don’t value the arts highly enough' 30 December 2017, Stuff

Julia Morison didn't need to give much thought to whether or not to accept her latest accolade. The Christchurch artist has been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year Honours, arguably the highest recognition of a 40-year career. 'Anything that promotes the arts is a really good thing,' she said. 'We have so much...

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Surreal and Mimetic Morison Related Press Surreal and Mimetic Morison 6 September 2017, EyeContact

In the downstairs Two Rooms space, two very different sorts of work are presented by Julia Morison, made fifteen years apart. We see From the Book of Shadows, the larger, older, relief, sponge sculptures positioned on the two parallel longest walls, and Things, the more recent steel and mixed media works aligned on a central dividing axis that...

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A Conversation with Julia Morison Related Press A Conversation with Julia Morison 25 July 2015, EyeContact

2015 marks the 40th anniversary of New Zealand artist Julia Morison's first exhibition. Morison studied graphic design at Wellington Polytechnic in 1970–2 and painting at the University of Canterbury in 1973–5. After showing a number of severely formalist paintings she took a break from exhibiting: from this came two very large, multi-part works:...

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Martin And Morison At Jonathan Smart Related Press Martin And Morison At Jonathan Smart 4 June 2014, Andrew Paul Wood for EyeContact / 28 May 2014

Two recent contemporaneous exhibitions at Christchurch’s Jonathan Smart Gallery show that even when exploring the visual vocabulary of modernism, it is still perfectly possible to playfully and meaningful allude to tradition - but that’s what postmodernism is all about, a breaking down of hierarchies and chronologies, a rejection of...

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