FRANCIS MORLANDBritish b. 1934
FRANCIS MORLANDBritish b. 1934
Francis Morland belongs to a generation of young pioneering sculptors that emerged during the 1960s. These sculptures reacted against the classicism of Henry Moore in rejecting both the figure and traditional presentation of their objects. They did this by often abandoning plinths, by using materials not normally associated with fine art (aluminium and early plastics were often employed) and introducing bold colours. At the forefront of these developments was Anthony Caro – a one-time studio assistant of Moore and tutor of a number of the artists at St Martins School of Art in the late 1950s. Those developing comparable styles included Philip King, David Annesley and Francis Morland. These artists formed part of the famed ‘New Generation’.
All of these artists off set cool minimalism with a rather playful use of colour and a subtle wit. All exhibited alongside the Pop generation who emerged from the Royal College of Art in the early 1960s. Indeed there is a remarkable photograph taken by Gerald Laing of Morland during the Paris Biennale des Jeunes in 1963 alongside Hockney, Tilson, Boshier, Jones and Blake. Morland was introduced to the progressive visual arts at an early age through his mother, Dorothy, who was a previous director of the Institute of Contemporary Art in London. He was clearly an artist on the cusp of a glorious career; well connected, well received and well liked. Exhibitions including New British Sculpture, organised by the Arnofini in Bristol were followed by commercial exhibitions in New York and London at the Axiom Gallery in September 1969.
Morland’s work was conceived on a monumental scale, often employing a technique of coating PVC with resin layers to create large scale works of great strength but relative lightness. The resin coating could (but was not always) painted in bright colours. His studio was located near an aluminium works, and through contacts at that workshop he began to produce small scale models of his larger works in aluminium which often refined the existing compositions. The large sculptures effectively became maquettes for the small models, and eventually all of the larger works were either lost or destroyed. All that remains of Morland’s 1960s works are the small scale models. These have recently been painted and after a 40 year wait, he finally has a small but perfectly formed collection of his works as he originally intended them to look.
Morland, like many artists before and after, struggled to make any serious money from sales of his sculpture. Unlike many contemporaries who turned to teaching, Morland took a distinctly alternative path and became one of Britain’s most industrious cannabis smugglers. Unfortunately his adventures in his new line of work were not without a degree of risk. Initially smuggling including concealing small amounts of cannabis resin in his sculptures. This cottage industry evolved into something altogether more industrial in scale which inevitably attracted the attention of the authorities. Much of Morland’s time during the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s was spent serving prison sentences both in the UK and USA. Consequently, no work exists after 1970, and we must appraise the artists career in a very small collection of work, only to wonder what might have been had he avoid the lucrative temptation of smuggling.