Two years since graduating from the painting pathway at Wimbledon College of Art, Morgan Wills now is having his first solo exhibition at the newly opened Sid Motion Gallery in Kings Cross. This is Sid Motion’s second exhibition and is titled ‘12 Conversations’. The installation of the show is an honestly conventional, prosaic setup, comprising of twelve of Wills’ canvasses evenly distributed across the gallery walls, along with five ink drawings in the adjoining gallery back room.
Each painting depicts a caricatured human figure, possibly genderless, subjectively male, perhaps alien. The works capture a certain gesture in still life, holding on to a moment of dramatic despair, as if from a life drawing class or witnessing a tragicomedy. ‘The Dispute’ (2016) displays a teary eyed, distressed subject, nostalgic of Bas Jan Ader’s, ‘I’m too sad to tell you’ (1971). These figures become recognisable moving around the exhibition. Further silhouettes are framed, in poses of glumness and misery. Wills’ obsession with the human figure continues in more abstracted depictions – severed noses and ears hover across canvases, along with glaring out-of-socket eyes devoid of blood or wound.
The paintings’ graphic quality is vivid and sharp, full of colour that makes you wince. Animation is brought to each work by gestural outlines, clinical and precise in their presentation. The stories scream with absurdist ideas. ‘Knot’ (2016) is likely the most irrational of the bunch, showing two vertical, stark eyes, layered with a formalised umbilical cord-like worm. The ambiguity posed by the floating facial features and the desolate figures evidence the depressive tendency that looms over all.
Whilst seizing snippets of solitude, melancholy and paranoia, Wills’ also exaggerates a humorous side to the figures within his paintings. Like Beckett and Pinter, Wills’ highlights an often unacknowledged aspect of working as an artist – coping. In ‘Two Blue Nudes’ (2015), we see two painters, in compromising positions, one slumped on top of the other, grasping onto their brushes as if condemned to the painting process or the limitations of the canvas size. The figures are left with nothing else.
While the works on display may seem incredibly equivocal, they are at least consistent in their manner. ‘12 Conversations’ could be understood as twelve troubled artworks and their subjects, sat circled, as if at an alcoholics anonymous meeting. Perhaps the subjects are taking it in turns to liberate themselves of former discrepancies or current predicaments. The operative thought here is the concern shown throughout the works and the roots of their emotive force. Manifested in these paintings is the point of doubt hindering a desperately progressive creative. Wills’ honesty informs us of a stymying demon, prohibiting all artists – the ever present threat of failure. However failure materialises we are also reminded through Wills’ works that the very idea of it can unlock potential and result in success.