Pru Morrison is an Australian artist building porcelain sculptures, cups and teapots from her home base in Brisbane. Laced across her pieces are bits of text and commentary on everyday life in Australia. Her comments are wide-ranging: art, politics, current events, and observations of life and people around her. More of her work can be found on her website.
JTW: You mention you reference a variety of sources for inspiration. Can you name a few? Are there some that you keep coming back to over and over again?
PM: I have regularly referenced social politics of state and society. I generally read newspapers as I’ve found that truth is stranger than fiction. I also explore gender politics particularly as it’s portrayed in the media with captivating subheading. I draw and wrap forms with text straight from the newspaper. The words become another visual layer to the surface.
I repeatedly draw a heterosexual couple dressed in white cotton underwear. They’re a little overweight with pink, yellow, orange, brown or blue skin. They’re ordinary and unremarkable as they hold hands and twist their feet shyly. They have appeared on the back end of different works with words and rhymes floating around them. I also draw mermaids with moustaches and men with breasts. I’m loosely addressing my upbringing in a small town where the social and cultural system believed there were only two genders. – Feminine and masculine.
JW: Your process sounds eclectic: creating & combining forms, then slip, then Sgrafitto. How did this process come about?
PM: When I first started working with clay I made functional forms and covered them with drawings and text. I later started making molds and slip casting work. I made molds of plastic farm animals, baby-dummies, wing nuts and action figures to name a few. I slip cast them and constructed spouts and legs which I attached to leather hard teapots and cups. This is when the form gained importance and worked alongside the drawings and text. They seemed to come together spontaneously with little forethought.
JW: How has your work evolved over the years? What has stayed constant and what has transformed?
PM: At the moment I’m working with porcelain slabs. I first sketch the form and write about the subject matter and the gist of the story. I roll out the slabs and start building the sketch with clay. The surfaces are layered with drawings, texture, and minimal words. The pieces are memorializing and celebrating people I have known in the past tense. The introduction of slabs is new and it’s supported a different way of working- if I think it, then it can be built quickly. The one restriction to the form is the size of my kiln.
The constant to my work is the practice of telling a story. I regularly gather clues and small bites of life to put into a sketchbook for future work.
JW: You employ a lot of text. What is the story behind that? (I can’t read text around the work. Are they quotes or “conversations” or descriptions, or all of the above?)
PM: I first used text to convey a clear and absolute point of view to the observer. It later became another layer, difficult to read and more convincing as a bit of texture. I then went through a poetry stage both with my own poems and old English poets and I did a couple of series of Australian song lyrics. At the moment I’m being sparse with text as I don’t want to weigh the pieces down. Text can be like seafood extender, low in calories and fat but highly processed.
JW: How planned out are your pieces?
PM: Firstly I begin planning a piece while cooking, going for a walk, watching netflix, having a shower etc. I feel around and find a way of making a thought or idea three-dimensional. I sketch and write down a few measurements as a guide to the size, and then I build the pieces. Most of the surfaces evolve, I don’t really plan it too much, just little sketches on the dry form. I follow my nose.
JW: What would you like viewers to know about you and your work?
PM: I’d like viewers to know that working with clay is like winning something really good. I started out studying art for five years, which was nice and interesting, but it wasn’t until I touched clay that I found my voice.
JW: Do you have any big projects on the horizon?
PM: On the horizon I’m continuing to work on my new gang of sculptural pieces. I’d like to do the Open Studios with The Australian Ceramics Association, if I can get organised. I’m in a show called Bric-a-Brac, which I’m still making work for, at Murky Waters Studio in Townsville. I’ll continue to make bread and butter pieces for the shops. There is the Christmas peak to start working towards.
JW: Where can someone buy your work?
PM: My work can be bought at the Institute of Modern Art Shop in Fortitude Valley Brisbane and at Artisan Shop in Bowen Hills Brisbane.