Simon Morley: Kiss Me Deadly
Gallery Baton is pleased to showcase the solo exhibition of Simon Morley (b. 1958), Kiss me deadly from March 11th to April 11th at the Apgujeong exhibition space.
Simon Morley’s exhibition at Gallery Baton presents a group of new paintings that bring cinema and literature into contact upon the monochrome surface of painting. The title of the exhibition, Kiss me deadly is that of a classic Hollywood ‘film noir’ directed by Robert Aldrich made in 1955, starring Ralph Meeker as a tough private detective who kisses several women while trying to foil a plot to steal radioactive waste. The act of kissing and the threat of nuclear Armageddon are rather unsubtly bonded to each other in what is essentially a movie of Cold War paranoia. The font he has used throughout is called ‘American Typewriter’. These words appear in orderly rows, and are painted in relief and just a tone lighter than the rest of the painting. They cast shadows, and so are more clearly present, responding to the sense of touch.
The initial visual experience of Morley’s paintings is of an undifferentiated field of colour, and only gradually do images and words emerge from the chromatic envelope. At first, we see a list of words, which come from the indexes or contents pages of books in Morley’s collection, and are mostly sourced from books of politics, psychology, poetry, philosophy and religion. They evoke a world characterized by intellectual thought, an awareness of history the quest for meaning and value, but removed from their original contexts and functions they are enigmatic fragments.
“Through the general indistinctness of my work, I want to suggest something buried or suppressed, rising from the depths or fading away. Visually, I force a less structured kind of seeing, a semi blinding, such as we experience at twilight.” — extract from Artist Statement
Behind these lines of text are seemingly random marks in a slightly different tone. Slowly, we organize these into sub sets of linked shapes so that a stable image emerges from the general field. These images are from movies, and are mostly of acts of kissing. They are cropped and removed from their context as scenes in a movie. One painting appropriates a kiss from ‘Kiss Me Deadly’, while another uses the title in the typography as it appears at the beginning of the movie. The monochromatic colours of Morley’s works are sensual but subdued, and do not consciously relate to the image or the text. While Morley intends no obvious connection between the words and the images, nor between these and the colours, he plays with our natural tendency to make meaningful connections, just as we organize the initially random seeming jumble of splotches in his paintings into patterns.
Also in the exhibition is a hanji paper covered cabinet in traditional Korean style, and through a peephole in the front it is possible to view a video within showing a loop in slow motion and reverse from Alfred Hitchcock’s’ film Vertigo (1958) the famous 360 degrees camera shot of Kim Novak and James Stewart kissing. There are also three aluminum cutouts based on stills of this same kiss in which the image is reduced to a simple grey outline framing empty spaces.