|All Images: Shaun Morris, Work On Display At Blue Moon Cafe, Sheffield, October 2015|
A little while ago, I mentioned the paintings of Shaun Morris, a Birmingham-based artist whose work has featured on this blog from time to time. I’ve know Shaun for a few years now, since he invited me to participate in 2012’s group exhibition, ‘If A Picture Paints A ThousandWords, Why Can’t I ‘. Shaun has continued to exhibit his work in a variety of locations since then, including two significant exhibitions in Rugby and Nuneaton, and I’m always struck by how his turnover of paintings, and general artistic dynamism can make my own progress look positively glacial. Shaun is a family man who holds down a day job far more demanding than my own, but still seems able to produce a new body of work in impressively short order.
This is, I suspect, partly due to his having worked hard over the years, to develop a pleasingly direct and unlaboured painting style. It’s the kind of thing that, perversely, can actually be one of the hardest things to achieve. I’ve always been something of an over-methodical plodder myself, (and probably always will be), so people who seem to possess a more rapid or spontaneous artistic metabolism often impress me.
Interestingly, Shaun’s latest public showing sees him placing his work outside of the normal gallery context, in Sheffield’s Blue Moon Café. Although, the show has been mounted in association with that city's Cupola Gallery, Shaun’s photos clearly show that this is very much an eating space. The opportunity to get work widely seen, and the often self-selecting nature of gallery audiences, (not to mention ever-dispiriting commercial imperatives), are perpetual issues for exhibiting artists. It’s no surprise then, that catering establishments are another category of possible venue that many find themselves exploring.
If I’m honest, I’m never quite sure how I feel about such places as art venues. I can certainly see how there can be a useful symbiotic relationship there, and also how one might easily draw the eye of someone not in the habit of making specific gallery visits. There is a definite sense in which moments of eating can also become moments of contemplation in which an artwork might find its way into a viewer’s consciousness. Equally though, I’m always a bit wary of how easily work can be relegated to mere décor in such contexts, or to a backdrop for the more pressing social intercourse that often accompanies refreshment stops.
Admittedly, this uncertainty about artworks becoming ‘mere’ décor might just be a particular hang-up of my own, and the debate over which contexts one might meaningfully appreciate art is clearly a wide one, (not to mention the one to be had over the function of this stuff in the first place). In the event, it appears that both the nature and the extent of Shaun's paintings mean they have a presence that elevates then above such concerns in this particular situation.
Not unreasonably, I suspect Shaun would also like to make a few sales if he can. Placing work in a context where money is already changing hands may not be such a bad idea, in the light of that. Anyway, instead of agonising too much about such matters, he has typically just cracked on with getting the work out there, in order to find out the pros and cons for himself. I know he’s had variety of different exhibiting experiences over the years and is certainly more qualified than I to make a judgment on such matters.
I've had no chance to visit the Blue Moon cafe as yet, and indeed, my own intermittent mobility problems have limited my opportunities to get out and about as much as I'd like generally, just lately. For that reason, I can’t supply any photos of my own, or a particularly coherent response to the actual work at this stage. Shaun’s paintings will be up in Sheffield for a while though, so I’ll certainly make the effort if I can. I’ve yet to see any of his recent truck-related work ‘in the canvas’, which is something I’m definitely keen to do. Sheffield is a rewarding city to visit generally, and a sit-down and a cup of tea are pretty much necessities, these days.
To illustrate this post, I’ve lifted a few images from his blog, where you can also read his account of how the show wentup. Clearly, there were a couple of practical issues with the hang, specific to the nature of the venue that are definitely interesting to read about.The best way to see all Shaun's work, both new and old, is here, on his website.
Shaun Morris, 'Black Highway', continues until 8 December at: Blue Moon Cafe, 2 St James Row, Sheffield, S1 2EW