Pirouetting Pendants

Amy Morgan’s ‘Tour En L'air’ series attests to the delight of dance - with paper as its lead.

Do you recall the first time you handled a blank sheet of paper as a child? Alongside tools such as pens, rulers, scissors and staplers, paper was a dreamy escape from reality. Cutting, bending and folding paper has remained an obsessive ritual for Amy Morgan, a formula of pacing time, of processing anxiety and sentiment, as an alternative path to self-care.

For the artist, paper’s versatility signals it can be transformed into anything. Beginning as equal, flat sheets, each has the potential of acquiring individuality, of becoming something that cannot be replicated. Through Morgan’s work we see how its fragility mirrors the human body; durable yet delicate, malleable yet persevering, but, with the same ease, it can crumple, deteriorate, tear and wrinkle. Paper changes, just like people. Its material qualities reflect the contours of flesh; ephemeral and vulnerable from the start, soon enough, they eventually droop and die. With craftsmanship at its core, Morgan confronts this mortality by moulding intricate shapes of abstract self-portraits in ‘Tour En L'air’. The title is derived from the ballet term, translating to ‘turn in the air’, where a dancer completes at least one full revolution (single, double or triple) in the air before landing - capturing the passionate whirlwind of her revolving pendants. 

Morgan colours the papers black to focus instead on the patterns formed as a way of expressing emotion by means of their entanglements. In contrast to the minimal, matte exteriors that resemble bulbous chrysalides ready to hatch, the interiors, an anarchic reign of tunnel-like lines and curves, are pure chaos. In their linearity, she complicates the perception of foreground versus background, constructing a moiré effect in a labyrinthine of illusions that entertain positive and negative space. This duality links to our very own human nature - external appearance often misrepresents what exists within and the complexity of our inner worlds means resolution can be elusive.

Going back and forth among removal, alteration and addition, the artist’s method is grounded in physicality. Morgan further translates movement by suspending her effigies on transparent strings throughout its surrounding room, emulating the vision of floating caterpillars’ mid-air. In mimicking living organisms, her art spins, twists and turns, silhouettes that dance a trembling choreography. The intimacy ignited in the body, the architectural expanse and the paper structures, we are pulled into a waltz with the works, tracing their forms to gain insider access, staging a performance of sorts.

Moving fluidly through architectural and wearable art is what feeds Morgan’s practice, as both disciplines consider the corporeal interactions with their surroundings. She takes inspiration from the ornamental motifs of the former, such as the corkscrew shaped Solomonic Columns which emulate spinning figures and dancing bodies. As we begin to believe that we can fathom her pieces, their geometries shift, dwindling in the light. 

By employing methodical repetition and devout meditation, Morgan invites the viewer to participate in its hypnosis. From her material-led thinking, these haptic devices pirouette between the impression of control and liberation. This disorientating cross over infuses the element of performance, simultaneously by the audience’s involvement and its autonomous mobility. As the sculptures perform in a fragile swing, both the inanimate and the living prance in a shadow game of pas de deux, a ballet duet in formation.

Words by Vanessa Murrell

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