REVIEW OF PAST EXHIBITION of paintings by VICTOR MORGAN entitled the First Ten Years’ was at Llantarnam Grange Art Center, Cwmbran from the 12th to the 24th of May 1986. With The Support of Welsh Arts Council
Genuine Primitives are few and far between and searching them out is like prospecting for gold. There is never any shortage of pyrites and dross but the thickest seams are to be found among the generations before 1914. we remember that generation for its plain speech and beautiful handwriting. They spent their lives under-achieving in steelworks and signal boxes and few of them found expression in painting in later life. Victor Morgan how ever is of a later generation and there for a rarer phenomenon-born in 1927. He has no objection to his style being referred to as primitive’ despite the inadequacy of this term and it’s patronizing overtones. He belongs to that category of painters whose total absorption in their subject matter is the secret of their unselfconscious forms and the uninhibited and spontaneous nature of their work. They still have a romantic appeal for us, and we think of them somehow as not having tasted of the forbidden fruit of the artistic tree of knowledge and cultivating their own paradise gardens which we can only view from outside. I first caught sight of his work at the mixed show of local painters at Newport Art gallery-an airship of the 1930s drifting over rooftops in Gwent. This picture typifies a common aim among primitive painters in striving to catch things exactly as they were physically and socially I had the great pleasure of visiting his home and found it wall-to-ceiling with a variety of extremely lively pictures. His oeuvre falls into various categories; the pictures from long-past memory are for me the most successful. A striking example is the washing-day scene of the 1940s.He shows the same involvement in the human figure as in the objects which surround them. The formidable boiler belching steam, a tin bath with wash board and coal bunker-stark and earthy but with a pervading joyous color. I should mention other excellent examples such as the paddle steamer (in the notable collection of M.Athanas Pouley of Paris) tied up in the River Usk and several other powerful images of ships. always surrounded with bright and glittering water which brings back one’s first childhood sensations of the sea. Among his earliest work is a copy of the ‘Hay Wain’ which is anything but a beginner’s cliché’ with its delightful sky, full of fascinating improvisations. He has a strong sculptural sense and has produced a number of pieces in welded metal (he is a welder at LLanwern by trade). I found the smaller pieces the most attractive-crabs and other small creatures, heavy to hold and like all good sculpture, equally interesting which ever they are tilted. Another facet of his varied work reveals his social conscience. These works are crowded with caricatured and reminiscent at times of work of George Grosz: One might be Apprehensive here that Victor might be becoming a little ‘artistic’ here but he takes the new direction with ease and his sense of form remains untainted. I suppose that we must remember that this cherished Naive quality is a relative term and like everyone else he is evolving towards the less naive to some degree. He is only too willing to explain the complicated symbolism in these paintings: medieval in its complexity. It gives us in visual terms the sayings, beliefs, hopes and fears of ordinary people. In case my remarks themselves seem patronising I shall end by suggesting that we are all primitives to some degree and if we succeed in producing anything of value, its essence is after all the primitive aspect of our work.
1986 Link Magazine A.A.D.W.