Artnet Interview | Amy Morton of Morton Fine Art

5 Dec
Gallery Network

7 Questions for Washington, D.C. Gallerist Amy Morton on the Capital Art Scene’s International Flavor

Morton Fine Art has championed diverse artistic voices for over a decade.

Artnet Gallery Network, December 2, 2022

Gallerist Amy Morton, owner of Morton Fine Art, Washington, DC. Courtesy of Amy Morton. Photo: Jarrett Hendrix.
Gallerist Amy Morton, owner of Morton Fine Art, Washington, DC. Courtesy of Amy Morton. Photo: Jarrett Hendrix.

Gallerist and curator Amy Morton is the founder and owner of Morton Fine Art, a stalwart fixture of the Washington, D.C., art scene. Recognized for its diverse roster of national and international artists, Morton Fine Art—and by extension, Morton herself—has developed a reputation for its thought-provoking exhibition program, and a specific emphasis on art and artists of the African and Global Diaspora. Morton Fine Art has also shown a strong commitment to exhibiting female artists, and the gallery’s current presentation is a solo show of work by Katherine Hattam, which is on view through December 20, 2022.

Morton has cultivated strong relationships both with the artists she represents (refusing hierarchy and referring to them as her partners) and collectors, for whom she strives to craft an accessible and educational experience. The result has been Morton Fine Art’s ability to consistently place museum-quality contemporary art in both private and public collections for over a decade.

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We recently spoke with Morton to talk about establishing her gallery, the current exhibition, and what’s to come in 2023.

You founded Morton Fine Art in 2010. Can you tell us about your background and what led you to open the gallery? What first drew your interest to the arts?

I come from a line of under-recognized female artists on both sides of my family. My parents, although divorced, both exposed my sister and I to performing arts, music, and other cultural mediums when we were children. The occasional trip to view a museum exhibition was always a big deal in our household. My mom and I used to create drawings together at the kitchen table—what I always considered a continuing story between mother and daughter. All that noted, I didn’t know I was destined for a career in the arts until high school: I walked into an art history class and was changed. I took my first gallery job when I was 17. By the time I graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles at 21, I had interned and worked at auction houses on both coasts, at art galleries local and national, and for a renowned New England artist association. Oddly, at that juncture, I had not yet found my niche in the art world, and it finally felt right when I opened my own gallery in 2010. With Morton Fine Art, I could amplify original artistic voices that I feel are simultaneously timeless and timely, substantive and layered.

Since the opening of the gallery, what are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned? Do you have any advice for young gallerists just starting out?

I’ve learned many lessons and believe I will continue to for the foreseeable future. Agility has been my best posture, and I would advise young gallerists to consider the same. There is still space to do things differently, and it is important not to get lost comparing or measuring yourself against other galleries or business models.

What are some of your guiding principles as a gallerist? How is this reflected in the artists you represent and exhibitions you show?

I often joke that I am allergic to hierarchy. I believe that empowerment through education and a comfortable environment are wonderful tools of connection and understanding. Visual art is a natural way to advance conversations and ideas, and I strive to provide a gallery environment that sometimes feels more like a salon—a place that supports exploration, emotional honesty, and growth, and doesn’t enhance insecurity. My artist partners are technically masterful in their respective mediums and integrate lasting conceptual and philosophical elements that activate the imagination. Washington, D.C., is an international city, and it follows that my gallery’s programming spans many global conversations, including social justice, environmental justice, reconciliation, and personal themes.

The art world has undergone a number of transformations since 2010. Have you noticed any trends or have any predictions, good or bad, that you find particularly interesting or significant?

It will continue to be an interesting time ahead. As a Washington, D.C.-based gallery, our pulse is always intertwined with politics—local, national, and international—and therefore the art created here is remarkably relevant. I love this aspect of the city, as there is always more to learn and contend with. Increased collector confidence in online browsing and acquisitions has also been an asset for us “secondary city” gallerists. While not a global trend yet, I have long wished for a more energized focus and interest in Washington, D.C.’s art community and all we offer.

Katherine Hattam, The Great American Novel (2022). Courtesy of Morton Fine Art and the artist.

Katherine Hattam, The Great American Novel (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Morton Fine Art.

Morton Fine Art is currently showing “Katherine Hattam: Strange Country, Strange Times,” which is on view through December 20, 2022. Can you tell us about the show?

Katherine Hattam is a well-established Australian artist having her first U.S. solo here at Morton Fine Art. We have worked together for over a decade, so it is a great honor to share so much of her incredible artwork in one exhibition.

As an artist, Hattam incorporates literary and art-historical elements in her work, focusing on materialist explorations of ultimately psychic space. Her practice is a lifelong investigation into domestic interiors: brightly shaded walls and windows, collaged book spines, and iconographic depictions of native Australian flora and fauna make up much of Hattam’s focus. Acknowledging a centuries-long preoccupation with domestic space as both the imaginative site and societal bounds of female artistic production, Hattam’s totemic kitchen tables and charged dining room chairs recur as motifs, doubly imbued as locations of domestic labor and sites of longing.

For the current exhibition, Hattam has also included several spectacular prints—some of them jigsaw woodblock prints—that she created from 2000 to 2021.

Katherine Hattam, A Strange Country (2022). Courtesy of Morton Fine Art and the artist.

Katherine Hattam, A Strange Country (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Morton Fine Art.

With New Year’s just around the corner, what are you looking forward to in 2023? Are there any forthcoming exhibitions or other gallery plans that you can share?

2023 is going to be another great year! Morton Fine Art will have solo exhibitions with Jenny Wu (born in China; lives and works in Hartford), Vonn Cummings Sumner (born in San Francisco; based in Los Angeles), Meron Engida (born in Ethiopia; based in Washington, D.C.), Andrei Petrov (born and based in New York), Maliza Kiasuwa (born in Bucharest of European and African descent; lives and works in Nairobi), Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann (Washington, D.C.-based), Amber Robles-Gordon (born in Puerto Rico; based in Washington, D.C.), Hannelie Coetzee (born in South Africa; based in Johannesburg), Hiromitsu Kuroo (born in Japan; lives and works in Iruma, Japan) and Prina Shah (born in Kenya; lives and works in Nairobi), as well as a group exhibition focusing on the medium of collage.

If you were not a gallerist, what would you be doing?

Excellent question and one that I have entertained a few brief times in my career. Nothing else ever screamed out at me, so I would guess a preschool/elementary school educator, or advocate for a niche of sustainable living.

Learn more about Morton Fine Art’s exhibition program here.
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http://www.mortonfineart.com

KATHERINE HATTAM | Interlocutor Interviews

3 Dec

INTERLOCUTOR

Dec 1

Exhibition Feature – STRANGE COUNTRY, STRANGE TIMES by Katherine Hattam at Morton Fine Art

Exhibition FeaturesVisual Artists

Photo by Jarrett Hendrix

Morton Fine Art is pleased to present Strange Country, Strange Times, a solo exhibition of paintings and prints by the artist Katherine Hattam. Incorporating literary and art-historical elements into her work, Hattam’s interiors offer materialist explorations of ultimately psychic space. The artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery, Strange Country, Strange Times will be on view through December 20, 2022 at Morton Fine Art’s Washington, D.C. space.

The Pinch, 2022, 30 x 22 in. – Jigsaw woodblock print on paper – Edition 14/15
Strange Country, 2022, 30 x 22 in. – Jigsaw woodblock print on paper – Edition 4/5

Curatorial Statement by Amy Morton: 

Katherine Hattam is an internationally-renowned artist and recent finalist for Australia’s prestigious Archibald Prize. We have worked together for over a decade, so it is a great honor to be able to share so much of her incredible artwork in one exhibition, made even more special by the fact that Strange Country, Strange Times is Hattam’s first U.S. solo exhibit at Morton Fine Art and first ever solo exhibition in the U.S.

Hattam’s work is unmistakable. Brightly shaded walls and windows, collaged book spines and iconographic depictions of native Australian fauna and flora make up much of her painterly practice – a lifelong investigation with the domestic interior as its focus. She incorporates literary and art-historical elements, focusing on materialist explorations of ultimately psychic space. Acknowledging a centuries-long preoccupation with domestic space as both the imaginative location and societal bounds of female artistic production, Hattam conjures doubly imbued sites of domestic labor and imaginative longing, full of totemic kitchen tables and charged dining-room chairs. Although uniquely Australian, Hattam’s canon inspires and relates within a global feminist dialogue.

A Strange Country, 2022, 49 x 60.5 in. – Mixed media on linen
Perhaps, 2022, 21.5 x 25.5 in – Mixed media on linen

Artist Statement – by Katherine Hattam:

A painter and printmaker, my practice encompasses works on paper, collages and straightforward oil on linen. Since my mother—a great reader—died, I began to often incorporate books into my work, repurposing them to make a grid as the support in my paper or linen pieces.

The genesis of this exhibition, Strange Country, Strange Times, was the time of Covid and lockdowns. I created six new works during this period, stretching from 2020 to 2021. As an artist with my studio out the back of my house, I was fortunate in being able to work from my studio and—more than that—to revel in the time lockdowns opened up.

I found myself reflecting on the physical and geographic nature of my country, the islandness of Australia. Initially, this relative isolation protected us against the spread of the virus, but not for long. Nevertheless, it did make very clear what a strange island and what strange times that period was and is.

My Blue Pantheon, 2022, 30 x 23 in. – Oil on line
Love From, 2022, 11 x 13 in. – Mixed media on linen
Women’s Estate, 2022, 29 x 19 in. – Mixed media on linen
This Strange Island, 2022, 31 x 23 in. – Mixed media on linen

Strange Country, Strange Times will be on view through December 20, 2022 at Morton’s Washington, D.C. space.

Check out our coverage of other current and recent art exhibitions

All images courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

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Available artwork by KATHERINE HATTAM

KATHERINE HATTAM | See Great Art

3 Dec

ART IN THE NORTHEAST FEMALE ARTISTS

Katherine Hattam first solo U.S. exhibition comes to D.C.

BY CHADD SCOTT POSTED ON 0 COMMENTS

Katherine Hattam, This Strange Island, 2022. 16.5 x 12 in. Mixed media on linen Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist.
Katherine Hattam, This Strange Island, 2022. 16.5 x 12 in. Mixed media on linen Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist.

Morton Fine Art is presents “Strange Country, Strange Times,” a solo exhibition of paintings and prints by the artist Katherine Hattam. Incorporating literary and art-historical elements into her work, Hattam’s interiors offer materialist explorations of ultimately psychic space. The artist’s first solo exhibition in the U.S., “Strange Country, Strange Times” will be on view from November 16 – December 20, 2022, at Morton Fine Art’s Washington, D.C. space.

Brightly shaded walls and windows, collaged book spines and iconographic depictions of native Australian fauna and flora make up much of Hattam’s painterly practice, a lifelong investigation with the domestic interior as its focus. Acknowledging a centuries-long preoccupation with domestic space as both the imaginative site and societal bounds of female artistic production, Hattam’s totemic kitchen tables and charged dining-room chairs recur as motifs throughout her artistic practice, doubly imbued as locations of domestic labor and sites of imaginative longing.

Often, windows look out onto fantastic landscapes – a rueful rumination on experiences proffered but withheld. In “Strange Country, Strange Times,” the vibrancy of Hattam’s window-views infiltrates into the domestic interior, reflecting the seeping isolation of the recent pandemic years, when means of travel and discovery were often confined to the mind. Hattam was well-equipped for such conditions: her domestic spaces have always been inveterately imaginative, expanded by (and often literally constructed from) the pages and covers of the books she’s been reading. Her frank pastiche of passing literary and artistic influences onto these interior landscapes discloses the extent to which Hattam views the perception of space as an inherently psychological construction, with internal influences and personal histories governing the way we make sense of even the most familiar room.

In 2019, Hattam received a fellowship grant to study at the Australian Print Workshop undermaster printer Martin King, where she began learning the method of jigsaw woodcut printing, a technique of classical Japanese art that was later adopted by Edvard Munch and Paul Gauguin. Several works in this exhibition were first made at that workshop in the months immediately preceding the pandemic. One of this show’s title works, Strange Country, sets Australian animal life in a landscape originally taken from Giotto. Reflecting on these portentous prints, Hattam notes that the pandemic allowed her to recognize the isolation implicit to living in Australia, a condition of being which she has often imposed into her art.

Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa (1831), another woodblock print, is inserted regularly throughout Hattam’s work here, alternately as window views or paintings-within-paintings, and represents for the artists a mentality of time – waves of feminism, waves of coronavirus – that embraces natural rhythms based on a sense of tidal flow.

A longstanding image for Hattam is that of a wood-backed dining room chair, which the artist has drawn and even reconstructed as sculpture since the 1990s. The persistence of chairs, tables and books stand in for family members and personal influences, like portraits in absentia. Despite the inveterate cerebrality of her interior compositions, Hattam insists that her works are always “about actually being there: they exist because someone has been there to see it.”

Her furniture, despite its symbolically potency and personal resonance, is also steadfastly literal, and represents a window into the broader material world. Through her compositions, Hattam asks: How much of one’s daily life is a mixture of what’s going on in your head and what’s going on outside?

About the Artist

Katherine Hattam (b. 1950) is a Melbourne-based Australian artist. Literature was a passion for Hattam’s mother, who first read Freud in adolescence, later passing her appreciation down to her daughter. Hattam graduated from Melbourne University in 1974 with a BA in Literature and Politics and a focus on psychoanalytic theory.

Literary references abound in her work; some of the books used in her compositions derive from her mother’s extensive collection, while others are scoured from second-hand stores. Works on paper – drawing, printmaking and collage – are a continuing thread in her practice.

Hattam’s work is in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Queensland Art Gallery, University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, Artbank, Heide, Art Gallery of South Australia, Deakin and La Trobe Universities, Warrnambool Art Gallery and Bendigo Art Gallery. In 1992 she was awarded an MFA by the Victorian College of the Arts, and in 2004 she was awarded a PhD by Deakin University.

She has been represented by Morton Fine Art since 2011.

Morton Fine Art

Morton Fine Art Founded in 2010 in Washington D.C. by curator Amy Morton, Morton Fine Art (MFA) is a fine art gallery and curatorial group that collaborates with art collectors and visual artists to inspire fresh ways of acquiring contemporary art. Firmly committed to the belief that art collecting can be cultivated through an educational stance, MFA’s mission is to provide accessibility to museum-quality contemporary art through a combination of substantive exhibitions and a welcoming platform for dialogue and exchange of original voice.

Morton Fine Art specializes in a stellar roster of nationally and internationally renowned artists as well as has an additional focus on artwork of the African Diaspora.

Available Artwork by KATHERINE HATTAM

KATHERINE HATTAM | Surface Magazine

1 Dec

WHEN

November 16, 2022 – December 20, 2022 Morton Fine Art: 52 O St NW #302, Washington, DC 20001

Brightly shaded walls and windows, collaged book spines, and iconographic depictions of Australian fauna and flora make up much of Hattam’s painterly practice, a lifelong investigation of the domestic interior. Here, she reflects on psychic space at the hands of the pandemic’s seeping isolation through vivid jigsaw woodcut printing, a technique of Classical Japanese art that was later adopted by Edvard Munch and Paul Gaugin. Inserted regularly throughout the works are motifs of Hokusai’s Great Wave Off Kanagawa, representing a mentality of time—waves of feminism, waves of coronavirus—that embraces natural rhythms based on a sense of tidal flow. 

KATHERINE HATTAM | Martin Cid Magazine

17 Nov

Paintings and Prints by Katherine Hattam Showcase Places of the Mind in the Wake of Isolation

The Australian artist’s new work reflects on the comforts of solitude and the peculiarities of her enclosed island state

Art Martin Cid MagazineBy Art Martin Cid Magazine

Updated: November 14, 2022

Katherine Hattam A Strange Country, 2022 49 x 60.5 in. Mixed media on linen Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

Washington, D.C. – Morton Fine Art is pleased to present Strange Country, Strange Times, a solo exhibition of paintings and prints by the artist Katherine Hattam. Incorporating literary and art-historical elements into her work, Hattam’s interiors offer materialist explorations of ultimately psychic space. The artist’s first solo exhibition in the U.S., Strange Country, Strange Times will be on view from November 16 – December 20, 2022 at Morton Fine Art’s Washington, D.C. space.

Katherine Hattam Perhaps, 2022 21.5 x 25.5 in Mixed media on linen Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

Brightly shaded walls and windows, collaged book spines and iconographic depictions of native Australian fauna and flora make up much of Hattam’s painterly practice, a lifelong investigation with the domestic interior as its focus. Acknowledging a centuries-long preoccupation with domestic space as both the imaginative site and societal bounds of female artistic production, Hattam’s totemic kitchen tables and charged dining-room chairs recur as motifs throughout her artistic practice, doubly imbued as locations of domestic labor and sites of imaginative longing. Often, windows look out onto fantastic landscapes – a rueful rumination on experiences proffered but withheld.

In Strange Country, Strange Times, the vibrancy of Hattam’s window-views infiltrates into the domestic interior, reflecting the seeping isolation of the recent pandemic years, when means of travel and discovery were often confined to the mind. Hattam was well-equipped for such conditions: her domestic spaces have always been inveterately imaginative, expanded by (and often literally constructed from) the pages and covers of the books she’s been reading. Her frank pastiche of passing literary and artistic influences onto these interior landscapes discloses the extent to which Hattam views the perception of space as an inherently psychological construction, with internal influences and personal histories governing the way we make sense of even the most familiar room.

Katherine Hattam The Pinch, 2022 30 x 22 in. Jigsaw woodblock print on paper Edition 14/15 Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

In 2019, Hattam received a fellowship grant to study at the Australian Print Workshop under master printer Martin King, where she began learning the method of jigsaw woodcut printing, a technique of classical Japanese art that was later adopted by Edvard Munch and Paul Gauguin. Several works in this exhibition were first made at that workshop in the months immediately preceding the pandemic. One of this show’s title works, Strange Country, sets Australian animal life in a landscape originally taken from Giotto. Reflecting on these portentous prints, Hattam notes that the pandemic allowed her to recognize the isolation implicit to living in Australia, a condition of being which she has often imposed into her art. Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa (1831), another woodblock print, is insterted regularly throughout Hattam’s work here, alternately as window views or paintings-within-paintings, and represents for the artists a mentality of time – waves of feminism, waves of coronavirus – that embraces natural rhythms based on a sense of tidal flow.

A longstanding image for Hattam is that of a wood-backed dining room chair, which the artist has drawn and even reconstructed as sculpture since the 1990s. The persistence of chairs, tables and books stand in for family members and personal influences, like portraits in absentia. Despite the inveterate cerebrality of her interior compositions, Hattam insists that her works are always “about actually being there: they exist because someone has been there to see it.” Her furniture, despite its symbolically potency and personal resonance, is also steadfastly literal, and represents a window into the broader material world. Through her compositions, Hattam asks: How much of one’s daily life is a mixture of what’s going on in your head and what’s going on outside?

Katherine Hattam headshot Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist. Photo credit: Clare Rae

Katherine Hattam (b. 1950) is a Melbourne-based Australian artist. Literature was a passion for Hattam’s mother, who first read Freud in adolescence, later passing her appreciation down to her daughter. Hattam graduated from Melbourne University in 1974 with a BA in Literature and Politics and a focus on psychoanalytic theory. Literary references abound in her work; some of the books used in her compositions derive from her mother’s extensive collection, while others are scoured from second-hand stores. Works on paper – drawing, printmaking and collage – are a continuing thread in her practice. Hattam’s work is in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Queensland Art Gallery, University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, Artbank, Heide, Art Gallery of South Australia, Deakin and La Trobe Universities, Warrnambool Art Gallery and Bendigo Art Gallery. In 1992 she was awarded an MFA by the Victorian College of the Arts, and in 2004 she was awarded a PhD by Deakin University. She has been represented by Morton Fine Art since 2011.

Katherine Hattam This Strange Island, 2022 31 x 23 in. Mixed media on linen Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

Morton Fine Art

Founded in 2010 in Washington D.C. by curator Amy Morton, Morton Fine Art (MFA) is a fine art gallery and curatorial group that collaborates with art collectors and visual artists to inspire fresh ways of acquiring contemporary art. Firmly committed to the belief that art collecting can be cultivated through an educational stance, MFA’s mission is to provide accessibility to museum-quality contemporary art through a combination of substantive exhibitions and a welcoming platform for dialogue and exchange of original voice. Morton Fine Art specializes in a stellar roster of nationally and internationally renowned artists as well as has an additional focus on artwork of the African Diaspora.

Morton Fine Art

52 O St NW #302, Washington, DC 20001

KATHERINE HATTAM | Strange Country, Strange Times | Art Plugged

15 Nov

Katherine Hattam: Strange Country, Strange Times

Exhibitions

Katherine Hattam The Great American Novel, 2022

Katherine Hattam
November 16 – December 20, 2022
Morton Fine Art’s
52 O St NW #302
Washington, DC 20001

Strange Country, Strange Times, a solo exhibition of paintings and prints by the artist Katherine Hattam. Incorporating literary and art-historical elements into her work, Hattam’s interiors offer materialist explorations of ultimately psychic space. The artist’s first solo exhibition in the U.S., Strange Country, Strange Times will be on view from November 16 – December 20, 2022 at Morton Fine Art’s Washington, D.C. space.

Katherine Hattam
The Great American Novel, 2022
Katherine Hattam
The Great American Novel, 2022 12 x 17 in.
Mixed media on linen
Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

Brightly shaded walls and windows, collaged book spines and iconographic depictions of native Australian fauna and flora make up much of Hattam’s painterly practice, a lifelong investigation with the domestic interior as its focus. Acknowledging a centuries-long preoccupation with domestic space as both the imaginative site and societal bounds of female artistic production, Hattam’s totemic kitchen tables and charged dining-room chairs recur as motifs throughout her artistic practice, doubly imbued as locations of domestic labor and sites of imaginative longing. Often, windows look out onto fantastic landscapes – a rueful rumination on experiences proffered but withheld.

Katherine Hattam - My Blue Pantheon, 2022
Katherine Hattam My Blue Pantheon, 2022
30 x 23 in.  Oil on linen
Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

In Strange Country, Strange Times, the vibrancy of Hattam’s window-views infiltrates into the domestic interior, reflecting the seeping isolation of the recent pandemic years, when means of travel and discovery were often confined to the mind. Hattam was well-equipped for such conditions: her domestic spaces have always been inveterately imaginative, expanded by (and often literally constructed from) the pages and covers of the books she’s been reading. Her frank pastiche of passing literary and artistic influences onto these interior landscapes discloses the extent to which Hattam views the perception of space as an inherently psychological construction, with internal influences and personal histories governing the way we make sense of even the most familiar room.

Katherine Hattam The Pinch, 2022
Katherine Hattam The Pinch, 2022 30 x 22 in.
Jigsaw woodblock print on paper
Edition 14/15
Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

In 2019, Hattam received a fellowship grant to study at the Australian Print Workshop under master printer Martin King, where she began learning the method of jigsaw woodcut printing, a technique of classical Japanese art that was later adopted by Edvard Munch and Paul Gauguin. Several works in this exhibition were first made at that workshop in the months immediately preceding the pandemic. One of this show’s title works, Strange Country, sets Australian animal life in a landscape originally taken from Giotto.

Reflecting on these portentous prints, Hattam notes that the pandemic allowed her to recognize the isolation implicit to living in Australia, a condition of being which she has often imposed into her art. Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa (1831), another woodblock print, is insterted regularly throughout Hattam’s work here, alternately as window views or paintings-within-paintings, and represents for the artists a mentality of time – waves of feminism, waves of coronavirus – that embraces natural rhythms based on a sense of tidal flow.

Learn more about Katherine Hattam

©2022 Katherine Hattam

Art plugged

Art Plugged is a contemporary platform, inspired by our relationship with the broader arts communities, and our passion for showcasing great work.

NATALIE CHEUNG | F-Stop A Photography Magazine

10 Nov

BLOG

Natalie Cheung @ Morton Fine Art

November 7th, 2022 by fstop

Natalie Cheung 57 Hours, 2022 (detail) 42 x80 in. Cyanotype photogram on paper Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

Natalie Cheung: Made of Light
through November 12, 2022

“Studying film photography during the advent of the medium’s “digital revolution,” Cheung’s education was heavily centered on the influences of light, duration and the chemistry of making a photographic print. Never embracing digital photography, Cheung no longer even owns a camera. Perhaps, as a result, Cheung’s experimental photography takes on a playful relationship, particularly with art history. From the nautical wash of a Turner landscape to the relaxed staining of Helen Frankenthaler’s abstractions, Cheung’s free-associative style inclusively riffs on prior forms, indebted to her realization that no shape or configuration can ever be truly original.”

Morton Fine Art
52 O St NW #302
Washington, D.C.

Available Artwork by NATALIE CHEUNG

Natalie Cheung | Alternative Process Photography | Video of her solo exhibition “Made of Light” at Morton Fine Art

2 Nov

Video credit: Jarrett Hendrix

Morton Fine Art is pleased to announce Made of Light, a solo exhibition of alternative process photography and sculpture by the artist Natalie Cheung. Utilizing time, gesture and much technical expertise, the artist captures lived experience directly onto the surface of her photosensitive paper and microplastic sculptures. Cheung’s second solo exhibition with the gallery, Made of Light will be on view from October 15 to November 12, 2022.

A formally-trained photographer, D.C.-based artist Natalie Cheung no longer owns a camera. Having studied film photography during the advent of the medium’s “digital revolution,” Cheung’s education was heavily centered on the influences of light, duration and the chemistry of making a photographic print. As traditional photography began to increasingly rely on the pixel, Cheung continued to explore these elements in the darkroom without the aid of film images. What resulted was a microhistory of artistic development, her dive into abstraction mirroring the revolt against mimesis undertaken by painters in the late 19th century – ironically, in response to photography’s initial ascent at that time.

Appropriately, then, Cheung’s experimental photography takes on a playful relationship with art history itself. In the artist’s “Facsimile” series, Cheung intuitively plays with light, chemical emulsion and photographic paper to create colors and shapes that pay homage to art history’s previous regimes. From the nautical wash of a Turner landscape to the relaxed staining of Helen Frankenthaler’s abstractions, Cheung’s free-associative style inclusively riffs on prior forms, indebted to her realization that no shape or configuration can ever be truly original. The humility of homage in Cheung’s work is balanced in turn by her technical mastery; her developmental ingenuity is so acute that she is able to translate impulse, memory and reference onto photosensitive paper with the subtlest of gestures. With this process itself having become second nature, Cheung’s predilections as an artist and preoccupations as a citizen are able to make their way transparently into her work.

In the artist’s “Intermediaries” series, Cheung uses slow-reacting cyanotype to create abstract works that seem to map islands, river deltas or erosion itself. In a process that can take up to several days, the artist allows her chemistry to evaporate naturally, in a manner indicative of the slow creep of time and loss of water that defines humanity’s relationship with climate catastrophe. Taking up the same process as was historically used to make blueprints, Cheung’s Intermediary works are like designs for a future of ceded control, capturing the chaos of durations we are not accustomed to monitoring.

Concern for the climate also comes out in the artist’s “Reclaim” sculptures – topographic models of islands constructed from nylon flocking, a non-recyclable form of compressed microplastic. Inspired by man-made landmasses such as Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah or even the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Cheung’s works hang in lucite display cases like real estate offerings: a scathing reminder that no man is an island.

Born in Virginia to a first-generation Chinese family, a formative artistic influence for Cheung was her mother’s practice of intricate chuāng huā papercuts, made on sheets of printer paper in honor of the Lunar New Year. Incorporating another form of alternative process photography, Cheung’s “Rock. Paper. Scissors.” series places these designs against a darkroom projector, blowing them up to monumental reliefs captured on photographic sheets. The resulting works carry the grandiosity and simplicity of Barnett Newman’s abstractions, though they are weighted with the significance of Cheung’s history and heritage. Open to the element of chance as she lets light slip in between the slivers of these shapes, such works are a synthesis of the artist’s great themes: balancing inevitability and accident in a delicate dance.

Natalie Cheung (b. Falls Church, Virginia) received her MFA in Photography from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and her BFA in Photography from the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, DC. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally; she has been profiled in Washington Spaces Magazine and has had work represented in numerous collections including the Museum of Fine Art, Houston and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Cheung currently teaches at the George Washington University and has previously taught at the Corcoran College of Art + Design and Temple University, Tyler School of Art. She has been represented by Morton Fine Art since 2014.

Available Artwork by NATALIE CHEUNG

NATALIE CHEUNG | Interlocutor Magazine

29 Oct

INTERLOCUTOR

Oct 25

The darkroom orchestrations of NATALIE CHEUNG

Visual ArtistsMultidisciplinary Artists

Intersections of Light #008, 2022, 30 x 38 in. Color pinhole photograph

Morton Fine Art in Washington, DC, is pleased to announce Made of Light, a solo exhibition of alternative process photography and sculpture by the artist Natalie Cheung. Utilizing time, gesture and much technical expertise, the artist captures lived experience directly onto the surface of her photosensitive paper and microplastic sculptures. Cheung’s second solo exhibition with the gallery, Made of Light will be on view through November 12, 2022.

Interview by Interlocutor Magazine

You’re a formally trained photographer but you no longer own a camera. What was the impetus for you to abandon the processing of images shot with a film camera to a state of pure experimentation with the development process itself?

I started to get away from using a camera when the medium of photography was shifting over to full digital. At that point, I was already burned out from toting a camera everywhere, which prevented me from being in the moment—not to mention the weird looks bystanders would give me if I took a picture of a very compelling stain on the ground.

More importantly, I wanted to get away from taking pictures of stuff and instead wished to capture an experience on paper. Using photography to simply document is like saying Harry Potter is just a regular school kid. There has been so much experimentation in photography since the beginning of the medium. I think of photography as solar alchemy.

Untitled 1, 2021, 42 x 85 in. Silver gelatin chemigram on photo paper, (From “Facsimile” series)

In your “Facsimile” series, you play with light intuitively in a free-associative style that results in “riffs” on prior forms, such as the “nautical wash of a Turner landscape to the relaxed staining of Helen Frankenthaler’s abstractions.” What kind of personal parameters (if any) do you set for determining when one of these works is finished and ready to show?

While composition and tonal range are certainly qualities that attract me to a composition, the idea of my “Facsimile” series is that every outcome I make is, was, or will be, a pattern seen somewhere else in the world—whether created unintentionally in nature or created with intent by the human hand, without ever having seen my work. Think infinite monkey theorem: if you give a monkey a typewriter, infinite time, paper, and ink, eventually the monkey will type lines from Shakespeare. So in this regard, every composition that comes out of my process is important to the concept, regardless of the look.

67 Hours, 2018, 42 x 80 in., Cyanotype photogram on paper, (From “Intermediaries” series)

In your “Intermediaries” series, you use “slow-reacting cyanotype to create abstract works that seem to map islands, river deltas, or erosion itself.” This was also the process originally made to use blueprints. What would you say you’re ultimately commenting on with these works in terms of humanity’s long history of trying to control/tame nature?

You can’t control everything, there’s always a give and take in nature. Humans tend to think that they are omnipotent, but there are always unforeseen consequences to what we do. Think about every time we have introduced a foreign species into an ecosystem in order to solve one problem, but in doing so, created an even bigger one. “Intermediaries” simulate the uncertainty of cause and effect. I set up my artwork and let nature take its course in evaporation, and what I am left with is usually very different from what I thought would be the outcome. And that’s the point.

Model Island 7, 2021, 16 x 16 in. Micro nylon fiber, paper, paint & plaster, (From “Reclaim” series)

Your “Reclaim” sculptures are topographic models of islands constructed from nylon flocking. Could you describe what attracted you to this material and why it’s important to the meaning of the pieces that you construct from it?

I have been attracted to this material since I was a child, as many children have. It’s the same material they use for fuzzy stickers. But also being a microplastic, the flocking is an ideal material to use in artwork about climate change. Microplastic wastewater is a huge problem. That stuff ends up in fish and crops and eventually in the food we eat. And microplastics don’t have to start off as micro—larger plastic items get broken down and crushed into microparticles that go everywhere. I created the “Reclaim” sculptures to be seductive eye candy; people are drawn to the bright color and shiny plastic, as we are programmed to be, namely by our need for water, searching out for it by its shiny glimmers in nature. The sculptures speak to the darker side of our nature in hyper-consumerism and what it’s doing to the environment.

07, 2020. Dimensions and medium variable, (From “Rock. Paper. Scissors.” series)

For your “Rock. Paper. Scissors.” series you are influenced by chuāng huā papercuts, made on sheets of printer paper in honor of the Lunar New Year. You place these designs against a darkroom projector, blowing them up to monumental reliefs captured on photographic sheets. What most appeals to you about the process of enlarging these designs and allowing elements of chance to slip through the shapes?

“Rock. Paper. Scissors.” is everything traditional Chinese paper cutting isn’t, and that’s sort of a reflection of myself. I am American Chinese and, as such, there are expectations from both of those cultural sides and I’m just saying: “No thanks, I’ll find my own way.” The scale of the artworks is large, the shapes are imperfectly cut, but of all my work, R.P.S. is the most intentional artwork I make in terms of the outcome. I carefully lay all my cut shapes onto the photographic paper, but what I can’t predict are all the interactions between the shapes once the light hits the paper. So the outcome does hold an element of surprise for me. Chance is a central theme in all of my artwork, but in the case of R.P.S., it helps illustrate the many unexpected things that happen in our life that ultimately shape our identities.

Intersections of Light #060, 2022, 30 x 38 in. Color pinhole photograph

Since digital has almost entirely taken over the realm of photography, do you view process photography art as a way to maintain the craft of darkroom processing while also transporting it into a medium that both makes it into something new and also pays respect to the long history of film photography?

I have a deep love for the photographic medium. It’s a magic medium that allows people like me (who can’t draw to save my life) a place to be artistic. I think a lot about how photography for me is integrating the process of my darkroom techniques with the concept of my art; it’s not simply the method I chose to print art on. These days, if you print a photograph in the darkroom with traditional subject matter you took with a film camera, there is a certain level of romanticism that is attached to the image, simply because it was created with what is now considered a historical process—and that’s what I’m trying to get away from. The first question I would ask when I see straight photographs printed in the darkroom is: “Why is it important that the photograph was printed in the darkroom?” What I’m trying to get at is thinking beyond photography just as medium; I’m trying to capture its physical experience.

Made of Light will be on view through November 12, 2022 at Morton Fine Art

All images courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

Tyler Nesler

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NATALIE CHEUNG Interviewed | PetaPixel | Camera-Less Photography

26 Oct

Camera-Less Photographer Creates Beautifully Abstract Cyanotypes

 OCT 25, 2022

 SONYA HARRIS

Abstract ocean waves blue and white Cyanotype image
57 Hours, 2022 (detail). Cyanotype photogram on paper. Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

In a unique blending of mediums, the works of artist Natalie Cheung invite viewers into a myriad of captured ‘experiences through time and movement’ set onto the surface of photosensitive paper and microplastic sculptures.

With pictures reminiscent of Rorschach tests, Cheung’s captivating ‘camera-less’ photo series Made Of Light, leaves onlookers beguiled yet intrigued by the artist’s map-like aesthetics.

Cheung’s work is influenced by the natural world, as well as created by light, duration, and the chemistry of making a photographic print. Made of Light manages to adeptly pay homage while utilizing the cyanotype technique.

Cyanotype image blue and white (abstract)

“Cyanotype is the earliest form of photography;[…] it’s the same process from which early architectural blueprints were made.” Cheung continues, “One of the bodies of work featured in Made of Light […] is Intermediaries. In Intermediaries, evaporation is my subject. The mappings contemplate the incremental transformations our planet is facing as climate change progresses. It is predicted that warming temperatures around the world will cause coastal areas to become dramatically wetter and inland regions drier. The title of each work indicates the hours in which water took to evaporate completely, and what remains is a blueprint of evaporation. The titles in hours are an homage to the ticking clock (literal and figuratively) we have on our planet to reduce emissions and stave off the point of no return for climate change.” Cheung says, speaking to PetaPixel

Cyanotype sepia and dark beige and brown
Untitled 1, 2021. Silver gelatin chemigram on photo paper. (From the series Facsimile). Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

Cheung hails from a mixed-medium background. At 10 years old, she received an in-box 35mm Minolta film camera from her uncle and fell in love with the discipline then and there. She progressed as an avid film user, favoriting Hasselblad, and Rolleiflex and picking up inspiration from album art from bands such as the Pixies. Particularly, their Doolittle album art.

“The photographs in that album were so textural, rusty, and abandoned. So while other kids in my class were taking pictures of their friends and normal stuff teenagers would take pictures of, I was taking pictures of human teeth in crusty backdrops,” she says.

While studying film photography during the height of the “digital revolution,” and as traditional photography began to gravitate towards pixels, Cheung chose to dabble in the creation of new works in the darkroom without the aid of film images.

Teal and violet image, can see houses in the distance
Intersections of Light #060, 2022. Color pinhole photograph. Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

“When the digital revolution in the photo world took over a few years into my career, I started to think a lot about the essence of the medium: documenting a moment in time with light. I questioned why darkroom photographic processes were still relevant and how I could continue to use them in a contemporary context without my work looking like it was clinging to antiquated romanticism. This is the central idea behind all my work.” Cheung says.

She stuck with the basics, that being Crynotype, and fully committed to a cameraless approach to her images.

“The inspiration for my cameraless photography has shifted over the years. Everybody of work looks very different from the last; even what the artwork is about changes. But the artwork always remains connected by the importance of the process woven into the concept and by the random element of chance that is involved,” She says.

Abstract pink and white cyanotype image with red lines
Intersections of Light #033, 2022. Color pinhole photograph. Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

The conceptualization of her process is almost as abstract as the results of her works. In a controlled environment, Cheung uses slow-reacting cyanotype to yield inky-like images with intriguing shapes, textures, and patterns. While some images resemble a kind of cartography complete with river deltas and signs of erosion, others simply invoke the calm and contemplative, aggressive or panicked ‘mood’ of the artist.

“I think about my process like controlled experiments: there are control elements and there are factors I can play with to create a little chaos. I never know what’s going to happen exactly. Sometimes the artwork is a dud and sometimes it’s wonderful and that is very exciting,” Cheung says.

Sepia colored Abstract image, with lighter and dark blots and waves
Silver gelatin chemigram on photo paper. (From the series Facsimile). Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

The artist allows her mixtures to evaporate naturally, a process that mimics while subtly commenting on the steady passing of time and loss of water that defines humanity’s relationship with the climate crisis. The results are a brilliant merging of mediums, artistry, and social commentary.

“I’m always excited to see the outcome of an artwork. My work is not predictable: you can set everything up, but the image could be a dud…and there are a lot of duds. So when one turns out great, it’s magic. The process is so technical and labor-intensive that anything could go wrong during processing, so I feel super protective about the artwork until it’s dried and stored.”

Natalie Cheung , with long dark brown hair and glasses and polka-dot shirt
Courtesy Natalie Cheung

‘Cameraless photography’ has afforded Cheung an unconventional yet intriguing kind of set-up and work space,

“I don’t use much equipment at all! I use jumbo darkroom trays, chemicals, light, lots of nitrile gloves, and Ilford paper. I keep tagging Ilford in my Instagram posts but have never gotten a nod. I’m sure they are horrified at what I am doing with their product.”

cyanotype image with cloud and water like abstract imagery
57 Hours, 2022. Cyanotype photogram on paper. Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

Without the traditional nuances of digital, it’s tempting to view Cheung’s process and setup as a simplistic form of photography, however life in a darkroom consistently has proven challenging at times for the D.C based artist,

“Everything is a challenge! I like to make large artwork and I’m small, so from cutting giant heavy rolls of paper to backbreaking processing & archival washing to figuring out who is going to help me move a 7-foot framed artwork, it’s all challenging in different ways. I use these huge trays in the darkroom and even moving one of those around, I think I did something weird and tweaked my shoulder once. Another time the darkroom suddenly had no water pressure…that was fun, to say the least. At the end of the day, I personally need to make this artwork and it’s well worth all the hurdles…and I move my trays carefully now.”

Feedback for Cheung’s works has both challenged and amused the camera-less photographer,

blue and white abstract and looks like clouds over a big blue ocean
67 Hours, 2018. Cyanotype photogram on paper. (From the series Intermediaries). Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

“If you’re an artist then you know there’s wildly varying feedback. Of course, I love the complimentary stuff, but I value critical, well-thought-out comments the most. Sometimes the most valuable comments come from the most unlikely people. I also secretly enjoy the weird comments like: “This reminds me of the time I spilled laundry detergent” or “I am confused but interested in this”. It’s like reading internet comments. I know it’s wrong to be so entertained, but I am!

Currently, Cheung is focusing on the Made of Light exhibition at Morton Fine Art, and is busy dreaming of future collaborations with artist Marimekko, or at least “a scientist with a powerful microscope.” In the future, she is staying committed to trying different mediums and assessing the fruits of her labors.

“I recently got into large-scale artworks and I’m kind of in love, so I am going to continue exploring scale. I also started making my reclaim (model islands) sculptures, so I want to see where I can go with those. It baffles even me, how after decades of strictly being a photographer, I just sat down and started carving out a sculpture.”

Abstract Cyanotype teal and orange and yellow image
Intersections of Light #008, 2022. Color pinhole photograph. Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

For more from Cheung, make sure to visit her Website and Instagram


Image credits: All photographs courtesy Natalie Cheung

Available Artwork by NATALIE CHEUNG