Michael Morris

I wrote one article [for artscanada] called “the Artist as Curator of the Imagination,” which lays out what we felt you had to do to be an artist. You had to create your own context. You had to go out and create a context to work in.”

- Michael Morris, July 2002.

Known primarily as an abstract painter and printmaker, Morris has also completed successful works in film, photography, video, installation and performance. He achieved international and critical acclaim at a young age, and is recognized as a catalyst in the development of the Vancouver art scene of the 1960’s. Recognized by his contemporaries for shining the spotlight on Vancouver, he is perhaps best known by later generations for his collaborative artistic practice and his ability to smoothly shift between the roles of artist, curator, arts administrator and cultural player. In 1970, together with the artist Vincent Trasov, Morris founded Image Bank, a conceptual vehicle for mail art projects, which featured collaborations with Eric Metcalfe, Gary Lee Nova, Ray Johnson, General Idea, and Robert Filliou. Further to this, Morris, along with eight colleagues from various disciplines, founded and directed the Western Front Society, an artist-run centre developed as a site for the production and presentation of “New Art” in all disciplines, including performance and media arts. The centre continues to thrive, and serves as an example of the success of the Canadian artist-run centre.

Morris was four when his mother, an artist who studied at St-Martins School of Art in London, moved him to Canada. At fourteen Morris began his fine art practice studying under German painter and printmaker Herbert Siebner. At the University of Victoria and the Vancouver School of Art, now known as the Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design, Morris had the opportunity to study under Jack Shadbolt, Roy Kiyooka and Don Jarvis. He completed his post-graduate studies at the Slade School of Fine Art at London University in England, for which he received a Commonwealth Scholarship. He was the acting curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1966, and from 1967 to 1970 he organized art events and exhibitions at the Simon Fraser University Art Gallery.  Morris has traveled extensively visiting Canadian and American destinations; he also lived abroad in Paris, London, and Berlin.

In Rome Letter  (1968), Morris introduced vertical mirrored plexiglas inserts into the canvas space.  Literally drawing the viewer into the work, the mirrored inserts reflect the viewer holding and displaying their movement in the piece. 

Morris’s work is held in the collections of the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, the National Film Board of Canada, The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.


Photo: Shima Iushi

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