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If there is one common thread that runs through Malcolm Morley’s output, which spans the gap between Photorealism and surrealist tableaux, it’s ships. Vessels sit in port, float through open seas, explode mid-air, zig-zag through choppy waters, and sail forward in his canvases, creating compositions that, depending on the mood of the picture in question, are either energetic or decidedly somber. Morley often ascribed his interest in ships to battles he used to create between toy models. But, he sometimes cautioned, the ships were “more than toys”—they became tools for him to explore issues related to scale and size.
Fittingly, Morley’s painting was a rigorous form of play that lasted the whole of his career. Morley has died at age 86, Brussels’s Xavier Hufkens and New York’s Sperone Westwater galleries, which represented the artist, confirmed today [06/02/18]. In a statement issued by both galleries, they wrote, “Morley defied stylistic characterization, moving through so-called abstract, hyperrealist, neo-romantic, and neo-expressionist painterly modes, while being attentive to his own biographical experiences. Thank you Malcolm, for your captivating art that broke new ground, your unique character, your exceptional knowledge and your friendship.”
Morley is often discussed in relation to the Photorealist movement, which sought to strip any sense of authorship from the act of painting through the creation of carefully worked images that mirror their...
Morley’s work is sometimes credited with having helped spur on some artists associated with Neo-Expressionism, principal among them Julian Schnabel and Salle. But it’s not difficult to imagine that Morley’s paintings could be motivating the move toward figuration within the medium right now. If his influence was something Morley thought about, he didn’t speak much about it. In 2015, he told ARTnews, “I never look back.”