This June sees the Millennium Gallery launching what is hoped to be a four-year-long project showcasing the artistic talent thriving within Sheffield. To kick-start the programme, long time Sheffield resident Paul Morrison has been drafted in, producing Auctorum.
Morrison isn’t the most well known of artists in the UK, but with over fifty solo shows in fifteen years taking major cities from Tokyo, New York and beyond by storm, it’s fitting to stay the man has made his mark on the international scene. And now here he is, doing the same thing in Sheffield.
Sheffield is the UK’s biggest kept secret. Common buzzwords from outsiders include ‘industrial’ and ‘run down’ but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The landscape blends contemporary, quirky buildings with the staggering backdrop of the Peak District. Different groups roam the streets, from skateboarders to fitness groups, and even a charismatic busking Captain Jack on Division Street. What makes Morrison the perfect debut artist is that his art parallels Sheffield’s diversity and even its underrated domestic status.
Taking images from various sources, be these common symbols like dandelions and castles or popular icons such as the eye makeup of The Cure’s Robert Smith, Morrison remixes these together, distorting what should be the appropriate dimensions, sizes and positions of objects. In doing so, the audience has ample scope to interpret what they will from each piece, and are actively encouraged to do so.
Generously averse to imposing an interpretation on his audience, when asked what he himself interpreted from ‘Tilia’, Morrison responded, “It doesn’t matter.” It’s really easy to assume that art is just for artists, and that the in-depth meaning and visual jargon can’t be understood by the neophyte so there’s no point bothering. But Morrison’s work is varied and truly for everyone, just like Sheffield itself.
In demonstrating the breadth of his portfolio, Auctorum is Morrison’s biggest exhibition ever in the UK. Most commonly known for his bold black and white murals, in four distinct yet interrelated rooms on show are sculptures, prints, drawings, a large mural and even a film. Some new pieces have been created specifically for the exhibition, with professionals like fabricators and gilders based in Sheffield themselves being drawn in to compose these works, making the show all the more a showcase of Sheffield.
Cities like Manchester and London boast mass pride and receive national acclaim. Sheffield deserves exactly the same, and Auctorum is set to contribute to that process.