Lewis Morley

I spent an hour or so of this afternoon at the Lewis Morley exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW. The two most compelling (and memorable) photographs are quite similar in many ways: those of Joe Orton and Christine Keeler.

In a very brief shoot, Keeler is photographed nude sitting on a chair, belying both a naivety and provocativeness. Morley describes it as an example of where the photograph was almost, if not more significant than the incident. It’s no surprise that Orton, then requested a similar photograph. By the way, I recently purchased a copy of the “Prick Up Your Ears” DVD and remain fascinated by Orton’s life.

I really love the history of 1960s UK theatre that Orton was part of. Reflecting my own personal tastes in life, I wasn’t at all moved by the many fashion photographs, but I really loved the theatre photographs and the celebrity portraits. In particular, there is a wonderful, informal photograph of Judy Dench, taken in 1965, providing both an insight into theatre and celebrity.

Other interesting portraits include Charlotte Rampling (disturbingly beautiful), Salvador Dali (dishevelled, taken by surprise), Somerset Maugham (a photograph capturing both the integrity and humour of older age) and Victor Spinetti (who looks remarkably like modern day actor, Matthew McFadyen).

With many of the photographs, Morley likes to play around with the subject, including the artists, Tracey Emin (who is photographed with her eyes closed, almost like a death mask, in a pose that reminded me of Frida Kahlo) and Christo (who is “wrapped”), as well as Helen Glad (Norman Lindsay’s grand-daughter who insisted on a full-frontal nude, and who is photographed with a Lindsay image project onto her body).

As with his portraits, shadows play an important part in the construction of his more abstract photographs, (such as the almost obscene Coco de mer and aubergine), giving even the abstract and man-main a wonderful sensuality.

This is a really terrific exhibition.