Cole Morgan, "Test Pattern," 2016
mixed media, 63” x 63”
Cole Morgan’s latest paintings are a change from his previous style, abstractions that play with trompe l’oeil, fooling the viewer’s eye with shapes – often balls – that look as if they are lifting off the canvas. The shift in his practice came as he was recovering from a hernia operation a year ago. Unable to sit or stand, he had plenty of time to think. “I decided I needed a departure for my own sanity,” he says.
Long interested in creating rich backgrounds for his paintings, Morgan began working with white acrylic and black spray paint diluted with mineral spirits, which helps the black paint drag through the white. Then he began to experiment with ink left over from an old computer printer and discovered how different printer ink is from acrylic paint. When added to his process, it created unpredictable – but interesting – results.
Cole Morgan, "Tone Game," 2016
mixed media, 14.6” x 14.6”
“When you mix water-based white acrylic with water-based coloured inks you get a rainbow of strangeness, depending on the intensity of the ink,” he says. “The blue can be very domineering. The yellow can be very acidy and lemony and nasty. It bleeds through the white paint. You can paint over the thing 20 times with white acrylic and the red magenta keeps bleeding through.”
Morgan made some small works, had good feedback, and continued experimenting. “You don’t know what’s going to happen when it dries,” he says. “There’s a surprise under every painting when I start. I can’t control it.”
The work he’s showing at Gallery Jones features randomly placed multi-coloured arcs that float on canvases of various sizes. “I’m very pleased with these geometric shapes that are soft and pleasing to the eye,” he says. “I say that because they’re roundish. There are no sharp edges. There are no triangles or rectangles. Everything has a soft flow to it.”
Morgan grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and attended art school there before heading to Europe in the early 1970s. He eventually married a Dutch woman, first settling in The Hague and then moving to Antwerp in 1994.
Morgan has a thriving commercial career. He was represented by 13 galleries at one point, but found he was on a treadmill producing work by order, and spending too much time at art fairs away from his children. He now sells at six galleries in Europe and North America and says he makes less money but is happier. “I pretty much do what I want to do.”