Sue Morgan, Philae Settlements II
Sue Morgan, Philae Settlements I

Artist of the Month: Sue Morgan

This month we look at the work and influences of artist Sue Morgan, whose Viewfinders Toolkit has inspired out latest artist workshop, and can be downloaded for use here 

Sue Morgan completed a doctorate in German philosophy and worked in the city as a corporate tax lawyer before being forced to retire in 1998 because of a diagnosis of schizo-affective disorder. It was during time spent in hospitals that she began working visually and since then has gained a first class degree at Camberwell in 2008 and was a finalist in the DLA Piper Art Award 2009 with the work ‘Fictional Machines, Thought Droppings & Mental Maps’, a research based piece riffing on contemporary materialism in the neurosciences. 

Since then Morgan has spent a lot of time caring for her parents. On her mother’s death in 2018 she wrote ‘Footnotes to a Blank Text’ which you can download here: Sue Morgan, Footnotes to a Blank Text, and is “an ongoing writing thing about death”. 

Morgan’s current series of works are meticulously put together, fine pen drawings. “I don’t work with reality very much” she says, her Hairy Building on a Hill series were “inspired by an image that stuck in my mind whilst out walking,” which she then begun to overlay with conceptual and emotional meaning. She started the series 6 years ago and has now done 60 or so in total. 

Her preferred way of working is to start with a constraint of some sort, “choosing anything, even something arbitrary”. Currently, this comes in the form of the media she uses – the size of paper and the fineness of the pen (a .003 copic pen). She also uses conceptual constraints, starting works using a phrase or list of words. 

Sue Morgan, Philae Settlements II

In Morgan’s ‘Philae Settlements’ drawings, one of which was submitted for Bethlem Gallery’s Lockdown Postcard Project, she wanted to give a sense of abandonment, of malignant places. She worked from a list of what they should contain which included: text, bridges, buildings, steps, ladders, measurements and mushrooms. Morgan explained the word Philae refers to the spacecraft which landed in shadow on a comet, meaning it could not charge its solar panels and led to the team switching it off, an act of ‘incalculable sadness’. 

Morgan “tends to work in phrases” and writes down ideas and words rather than trying out sketches of things. “I don’t find it difficult to put notes on paper, but I’m not an illustrator”. The only time she’s really worked on a commission was to design the cover for Nature Outlook magazine – a special collection of articles about schizophrenia. Hear Sue talk about creating this design here.   

In terms of the art and artists that influence Morgan, she adores the work of Helen Marten “her placement of objects is mind-blowing, I’d love to meet her!” She mentioned in particular Marten’s recent body of work and publication of the same name ‘Sparrows On the Stone’ showing at Sadie Coles Gallery 4 September – 30 October 2021. 


Read more about Sue Morgan via her website here. 

Also: be the first to hear about our Bethlem gallery artist inspired workshops via our newsletter, sign up here. 

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