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Julia Morison

Julia Morison

Julia Morison ONZM (cropped).jpg
Julia Morison

Pahiatua, New Zealand
EducationWellington Polytechnic School of Design at Massey University;School of Fine Arts at University of Canterbury
Known forPainting, sculpture, photography, installation art
AwardsLaureate Award Arts Foundation of New Zealand

Julia Morison ONZM (born 1952) is a New Zealand artist working across a wide range of media including painting, sculpture, photography, installation and recently ceramics.[1]


Morison completed a Diploma in Graphic Design from Wellington Polytechnic School of Design, Massey University in 1972. She completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Honours from the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts in 1975.[2]


Morison was awarded the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship in 1988 and undertook the Moët & Chandon contemporary art residency in Avize, France in 1990. After the year long residency she remained in France for ten years.[2]

In 1999 Morison became Senior Lecturer in Painting at the University of Canterbury, a position she held until 2007.[2]

Morison received a Laureate Award from the Arts Foundation of New Zealand in 2005.[2]

A major survey exhibition on Morison's work, A loop around a loop: Julia Morison was organised by the Christchurch Art Gallery and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery in 2006, and curated by Felicity Milburn and Justin Paton.[3]

In 2012 Morison was inducted into the Massey University College of Creative Arts' Hall of Fame.[4] In the same year her exhibition Meet me on the other side showed at Christchurch Art Gallery and City Gallery Wellington.[5]

In 2013 her public sculpture Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers was installed in central Christchurch as part of the SCAPE public art project. A response to the devastating Christchurch earthquakes, the work is designed to be a permanent but relocatable feature of the city.[6]

In the 2018 New Year Honours, Morison was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to visual arts.[7]


Morison's early work (from the time she finished art school) concentrated on 'severely formalist' paintings.[8] After taking a break from exhibiting, in the mid 1980s Morison returned with a series of complex and ambitious works which became signatures in her career. Large multi-part works such as Vademecum (1986) and Golem (1987) are based on a system Morison created based on the number 10, referencing the Sefirothic Tree of Kabbalah and using ten 'logos' and ten key materials ('transparency', gold, silver, 'iridescence', lead, mercury or mercuric-oxide, clay, ash, blood, excrement), in various combinations. These systems continue to inform much of the artist's work.[8][9] This system has informed a great many of her paintings and installation works, and she continues to work with replicating forms (like the Celtic knot) and organising principles (like Victorian myriorama).[10]

In 1997 Morison collaborated with fashion designer Martin Grant on Material evidence: 100-headless woman , a series of ten dresses, each three metres high and each based on a specific material, such as gold, silver, lead, excrement, blood, pearl, and clay.[11]

After the 2011 Christchurch earthquake Morison could not continue painting and instead began making sculptural works, using plaster, clay, the liquefaction sediment from the earthquake and found objects. Recently she has been working on a major new series of porcelain and stoneware ceramic head forms, called Headcases. She has currently produced about 30 works from an intended series of 100.[8][12]


Morison's work in held in many New Zealand public gallery collections, including Christchurch Art Gallery, Auckland Art Gallery and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.[13][14][15]


  • Gina Irish, 'My Place: Julia Morison', Art New Zealand, no 109, Summer 2003–2004[16]
  • John Hurrell, 'Morison Sculpture in Auckland', EyeContact, 29 November 2011[17]
  • Creon Upton, 'Morison's Plaster Wall Sculptures', EyeContact, 22 September 2013[18]
  • Andrew Paul Wood, 'Morison Tree Houses in Christchurch', EyeContact, 12 October 2013[19]
  • Mark Amery, 'Short Shrift', The Big Idea, 8 October 2014[20]
  • Allan Smith, 'Julia Morison's Headcases', EyeContact, 9 April 2015[12]


  1. ^ "Morison, Julia". Find NZ Artists. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d "Julia Morison". Arts Foundation of New Zealand. Archived from the original on 27 January 2015. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  3. ^ "A loop around a loop: Julia Morison". Christchurch Art Gallery.
  4. ^ "Hall of Fame Inductees – Julia Morison". Massey University College of Creative Arts. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  5. ^ "Meet me on the other side". City Gallery Wellington. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  6. ^ "Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers". SCAPE. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  7. ^ "New Year honours list 2018". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 30 December 2017. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  8. ^ a b c Pitts, Priscilla (20 July 2015). "A Conversation with Julia Morison". EyeContact. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  9. ^ Hurrell, John. "Julia Morison" (PDF). Real Art Roadshow. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  10. ^ "Many parts to this puzzle". Nelson Mail. 15 December 2010. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  11. ^ "Material Evidence: 100 Headless Woman". City Gallery Wellington. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  12. ^ a b Smith, Allan (9 April 2015). "Julia Morison's Headcases". EyeContact. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  13. ^ "Julia Morison". Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
  14. ^ "Julia Morison". Auckland Art Gallery. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  15. ^ "Julia Morison". Christchurch Art Gallery. Archived from the original on 18 March 2015. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  16. ^ Irish, Gina. "My Place: Julia Morison". Art New Zealand. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  17. ^ Hurrell, John. "Morison Sculpture in Auckland". EyeContact.
  18. ^ Upton, Creon. "Morison's Plaster Wall Sculptures". EyeContact. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  19. ^ Wood, Andrew Paul. "Morison Tree Houses in Christchurch". EyeContact. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  20. ^ Amery, Mark. "Short Shrift". The Big Idea. Retrieved 18 March 2015.