Danny Morse’s exhibition Can’t tip the butcher back turns the gallery into a playground for humour and the absurd. Naive and folk sensibility meet with images of the everyday, floating around like interests in an algorithm controlled search engine. In the age of YouTube and endless Instagram scrolling there are now machines that can assist with how we consume, circulate and indulge in images.
This immediacy and image saturation is slowed down in this show but with a tip of the hat to attention deficit. The artist uses angle grinders and chainsaws on huge fallen trees in his outdoor studio. These carved sculptures are then painted to bring them to life but one can’t help feel the artist is more excited by his tools and brushes. We see this in the work ‘STIHL life’ where the artist turns the brush back on the tool by meticulously painting his Stihl chainsaw in side profile, floating in a void like a google product search. It is an appreciation of the engineering in this tool and its importance in his practice and his everyday life. Morse has an interest in the natural world as source material. We have seen this in his fascination with river stones and carved timber, but unlike a Guisseppe Penone tree sculpture, Morse brings his timber into the everyday and in many cases through pop and nostalgia. We have seen him render scenes of childhood play. Cricket bats, over-sized toys, watermelon and Saxa salt on the table. There is a familiarity and comfort in what the artist selects and the initial randomness falls away into a visual of a backyard after a day of playful joy.
The painting ‘MCL35M’ celebrates a pinnacle of engineering in the form of the current McLaren Formula 1 race car. Once again we see a machine in the void. This time in front view and full glory with its papaya and blue livery. The livery is an interesting way to unpack this work and to begin to understand the expense of the sport. These car wraps showing a bottomless pit of sponsorship and the expense of speed. Lando hits the Drag Reduction system and slips around and out of the airstream while the corporate sponsors blur out of resolution.
The key work of the show is an oversized pink glazed doughnut with twigs as sprinkles. ‘The optimists creed (Glazed and confused)’ once again shows a clever choice of image with iconic status. Here Morse wants us to see the power of positivity and the fun that can be had with ones life. It brings to mind ‘The Store’ by Claes Oldenburg with its scaled up soft sculptures of food items. The Optimists Creed states;
As you ramble on through life, brother,
Whatever be your goal,
Keep your eye upon the doughnut,
And not upon the hole.
The chiseled timber surfaces speak to the wooden sculptures of Thaddeus Mosley until they are brought inside for their skins of coloured paint. Another sculpture in the show titled ‘Bruxismism’ is a clever look at the condition the artist suffers from himself. The nightly grinding of his teeth held at bay by a dental plate, the angle grinder somewhat more damaging in the sun of his outdoor studio. This work is critical in understanding the complexity of the artist’s practice and in the end mirroring the jelly Lollies that sent us all to the dentist as kids.
Throw away materiality, immediacy and the mass produced are also under fire. The work ‘Cetus (Soy sauce snapper)’ is a scaled up single-use soy sauce fish. These little 4ml ‘shoyu-tai’ (soy sauce snappers) were introduced as a replacement for glass and ceramics in 1950s Japan and unbelievably there is a scientific taxonomy for the number of plastic species in circulation. These snappers can be handy with “particular types of sushi” however as the title suggests they have become a monster of a problem.
One can’t help but imagine the artist sitting in the backyard and cooking in the fire, toys amongst carved timber and surrounded by national parkland. Perhaps staring off into the bush imagining whittling sticks on the porch of a log cabin. Dreaming of life as a wilderness survivor with an active wifi.
James Kerr, 2021