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He nodded into his white beard, he wore a long greatcoat. It was the colour of rust, the colour of moss, the colour of bark, the colour of stone. It was the colour of things in nature, having long been exposed, like them, to radiant suns, showers, snow, cold, heat, wind, violent transformations, balmy airs, the long succession of days and nights.
— Derborance by Charles Ferdinand Ramuz, translated by Laura Spinney
This body of work is the result of my time at the Kunstkollektivet 8B artist residency in Unnerud, Denmark. I’ve been struck by the warmth and generosity I’ve received here, Unnerud has felt like a sort of home even though it was only a measly two month stay.
Despite this, being a guest means you will leave. It suggests you’ve come from somewhere else, you are different. You belong by virtue of invitation but the understanding is that it is temporary, transient, momentary. It is fitting the Kunstkollektivet 8B exhibitions are entitled Rhizom. It brings to mind Édouard Glissant’s concept of the Poetics of Relations; “rhizomatic thought is the principle…in which each and every identity is extended through a relationship with the Other.” To become a guest is to become a stranger.
For this show I’ve brought together a number of textiles and materials I have accumulated during my travels to get to Unnerud from Australia; plastic bags from Vietnam, salt from the Dead Sea, hessian from Türkiye, whilst ruminating on this collection in the idyllic, bucolic setting of Nykøbing Sjælland. For me, these materials act as a kind of souvenir to my existence representing function, utility, consumption and waste in a corporeal sense. Each material parading its own physicality, wearing in its own way, each as strange and unique as a guest.
I have said before that I am concerned with creating paintings in the digital age. For some nostalgic reason I am attached to the notion of a ‘painting’ and try to explore this notion in a way that can’t be computer generated. That is, rather than creating an image I look at the physical composition of what makes a painting – such as canvas, stretcher bars, paint – and reconfigure these to consider what makes it a painting, not an image on a screen. I reduce my works in order to forefront material and surface in order to meditate on matter and perception. Recycled, new, organic, inorganic, valuable, worthless, weight, weightlessness: I see these as conversations between matter, or perhaps more pertinently, between our relationship with matter.
This show is a personal diary, it’s been coaxed out by the people I’ve met, my experience getting here and being here; the uncertainty, the warmth, the logistics, the novel, the mundane. The Danish word ‘gæst’ is the same in Old English. Some 500 years ago the English changed the spelling, the Danish didn’t. Along with ‘guest’, ‘gæst’ also eventually created the English word ‘ghost’. I suppose both will disappear eventually. Thanks for having me Unnerud, I’ll leave a 5 star review.
Morgan Stokes (b. 1990) is an artist based in Sydney, Australia. ‘Gæst’ is his first solo show in Denmark which follows commercially and critically successful shows in 2022 and 2023. He has recently been selected as a finalist in the Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize (2023), the Omnia Prize (2023) and the Mosman Prize (2022). He holds a Master of Design from UNSW and is represented by Sydney gallery Curatorial+Co. His works can be found in private collections across Australia, the USA, Germany and around the world.