Shul I, 2009, Acrylic on canvas, 96" x 72"
Photo: Courtesy of Himmelberger Gallery
Cézanne, who synthesized his keen observations of reality with a powerful impulse toward dynamic composition, famously described his less cerebral colleague Monet as “only an eye, but what an eye.” To modern sensibilities shaped by Cubism and abstraction, much Impressionism does indeed look merely “optical” (to echo Duchamp’s briskly unfair dismissal), but the joining of real and imaginary, objective and subjective does fuel much great art. Jeremy Morgan, an English-born painter who has worked and taught in San Francisco for many years, describes his works as fusions of conceptual and perceptual, “pivotal points between internal feeling and external stimuli, a meeting place of the material and the non-material.” His large acrylic works on canvas or wood (or canvas stretched over wood) and his small painted collages in “Imaginal Geographies” confirm that evaluation.
In traditional landscape, picturesque views present themselves to us as feasts for the avid eye; in Morgan’s post-cubist multiple-view paintings, the viewer is forced to synthesize multiple glimpses, small patches of vista, as with Hockney’s disjunctive photo mosaics. Morgan’s patches of texture and form are real overpainted photographs in the collage works, but they’re painted photographic simulations in the canvas works; there’s a bit of Synthetic Cubism’s playful illusionism going on here, outdoors. The landscape metaphor predominates, however. The slices of reality are swathed in thinly glazed brushwork that unifies and contains them, rather as the crags in Chinese landscape painting, which the artist has studied extensively, are unified by foliage, wind, water and fog. Bold strokes of vibrant color that function almost as chordal eye music add another layer of richly ambiguous visual complexity.
In Veduta I (view), what appear to be snow-capped peaks float above a deep blue evening sky, while inside a middle band of sunset-orange clouds hover what appear to be sheets of flexible mirror, reflecting what lies outside our field of vision. From Within There Came Echoes adds allusions to geological and marine processes and formations. Past Desiring So High — A Beauty in the Air is an even more spatially complex evocation, adding simulated or real water, ice, clouds and verdure. The modern landscape may be shaped by our complex nervous systems, and conceptual frameworks may shape perception, but rewarding lookout points can still be found.