2nd Place recipient

Claire Morgan

Being alive can be beautiful and horrific. Every living thing is in this state of constant transition. I am intrigued by those simultaneous senses of spiritual communion and unpalatable intrusion that come about through awareness of our connectedness, and of our vulnerability.

My practice has been focused on how we humans understand and interact with the rest of the natural world, and our unwillingness to acknowledge our absolute lack of autonomy or control. I look at humans as animals and the complexity of our intellectual dislocation from the landscape that sustains us. We behave as individual entities with fixed identities, but the reality is less clear. The me that I was a few days ago no longer exists.

My environmental concerns have always been reflected in my work, particularly the passive role we have chosen to assume within our environment, and our reluctance to fully accept our own culpability in its destruction. The waste plastic in my work is like a contemporary artifact that embodies our lazy, indulgent, throwaway culture, and it provides a very clear and literal example of the impact we have on our surroundings. But I am not making work about rubbish. More than this, it embodies the social and psychological toll this culture can take on us, as individuals and as animals.  There is a jarring between the disruptive, meticulous, and unstoppable cycles of life and death that ultimately govern us, and the superficial, seductive, sedate, safe, and easily consumable things that we choose to use to entertain and distract ourselves.

Labour and repetition have been important tools for me. I discovered that I could use incredibly fragile materials to create the illusion of precise geometric structures. Any event might destroy these structures. As the potential for destruction seems closer, the senses of frailty and futility become more powerful, and there is a particular beauty in that moment.

Over time my exploration has expanded into animality, sexuality, violence – both inflicted and received – and the patriarchal, colonial systems that have formed so much of the basis of contemporary life. I am looking at history, memory, and vulnerability, both personal and collective. My own early experiences of trauma and loss had a profound impact that remains with me. My most recent work probes violence through formal and material means. It has a cathartic function and seems to slow that violence down, arrest it, and draw from it a strange power, and the possibility of renewal.

What if I could create something that was both plastic and organic, something massive and viscerally violent, but at the same time so delicate as to barely even exist.

I want to reach what is hidden beneath the layers of synthetic contemporary culture, at the heart of our experience, as well as how we try to hide that or try to hide from it. At its core, my practice is an exploration of the human condition. It comes from somewhere deeply personal.

Claire Morgan was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and is currently based in Gateshead, UK. Prizes have included the Foundation Daniel et Florence Guerlain Prix de Dessin (2019), the Premio Fondazione Arnaldo Pomodoro, Prize for Young Sculptors (2006), and the Royal British Society of Sculptors Annual Bursary Award (2004). Solo shows include Joy in the Pain, Saarlandmuseum Moderne Galerie (Saarbrücken, DE, 2021), As I Live and Breathe, The Horniman Museum (London, UK, 2019), Stop Me Feeling, Frist Art Museum (Nashville, US, 2017), The Sound of Silence, Het Noordbrabants Museum (Den Bosch, NL, 2016), The Gathering Dusk, Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (Paris, FR, 2015). Morgan’s work is represented in collections worldwide, including Centre Georges Pompidou, FR; MONA – Museum of Old and New Art, AU; Foundation Guerlain, FR; Emerige, FR; ALTANA Kulturstiftung, DE.