WARRNAMBOOL artist Glenn Morgan jokingly compares the spread of his artwork across Australia to a weed, like couch grass.
It’s typical of the self-deprecating humour Morgan uses when talking about himself and his art.
“I’m dumb as an ox and at primary school ... I barely passed,” he told a Friends of the Warrnambool Art Gallery group yesterday at a sneak preview of his new exhibition.
“I just love making pictures — it’s incredibly great fun.”
But while Morgan might talk himself down, there is no escaping the power, humour, emotion and eye-catching dynamism in his artwork, especially when gathered together like it is at the moment at the WAG.
Tonight sees the opening of a career overview of sorts for Morgan called Shock Treatment.
There are a few pieces in there from a previous survey of his works “about 15 or 20 years ago”, but Morgan said he and the WAG’s curator of exhibitions and outreach Gareth Colliton had selected pieces largely from the ’90s, ’00s and now for this display.
With many of his works in private collections around Australia, the exhibition isn’t quite as comprehensive as it could have been, but Morgan said he was glad to have included some of his favourites, among them an early piece depicting the May Racing Carnival and a moving work inspired by the funeral of Banjo Clarke.
“For me, they have to have some story to talk about,” he explained, saying he was looking for subject matter “that really stirred something in me”.
While talking to the Friends of the WAG group yesterday, he said he never knew what that thing might be. His thoughts and fears regarding climate change led to the creation of his largest artwork to date, but a simple moment such as listening to an AFL game on the radio with friends could be equally as inspiring.
“People come up to me and say ‘I’ve got the perfect idea for you for a piece’ but it never strikes a chord,” he said.
“I don’t know why (I think) there’s a picture in seeing Steve Waugh make a hundred at the MCG but not Allan Border making a hundred at the MCG.
“Why is that? I don’t know, but it’s something magical.”
Morgan’s influence in the Warrnambool art scenes extends beyond the impact of his artwork. One artist estimated that just about every artist in Warrnambool had at some point had Morgan as an art teacher. While he admits to being a “little bit nervous” about tonight’s launch event for his exhibition — possibly because so many of his former students are likely to be there — he said he gets as much of a kick out of teaching as he does creating.
“The best thing about teaching art is seeing a student get bitten on the arse by the art bug and get addicted to it,” he said.
“Because it is an addiction. When we stop doing it, we get a bit ratty.”