The Light, and Lyrical Photography of Morgan Fisher
We met Morgan in the fall of 2011, at Kim and Gina Weston’s home on Wildcat Hill in Carmel, CA. Morgan was in Carmel for the opening of a show of his “Light Paintings” at the Winfield Gallery and to perform at the Carmel Art and Film Festival.
We learned that evening that Morgan was born in England, and after completing his formal education began an active and ongoing international life as a musician. Morgan has been a keyboard artist for many bands including Mott the Hoople (produced by David Bowie in the 1970’s), played with Queen in 1982, created the album, “Echoes of Lennon” in 1990 with guest Yoko Ono, and has performed with members of the band R.E.M. Morgan moved to Japan in 1985 after traveling the globe. More recently he has composed stylish TV and film music, created meditation music in Zen temples, jammed with classic rock and blues bands, and played samba music in Brazil and world music in China. Along with his varied musical career, Morgan has honed his talents as an artist and a photographer.
Morgan’s work was so unique and beautiful that the other attendees at the Weston’s home were extremely impressed. His kindness, warm personality, and artistic talent added to a wonderful evening. The evening we spent at the Weston’s viewing some of Morgan’s art revealed a rare and unique talent. Morgan has managed to merge the beauty of sound and light and created beautiful images that we feel deserve a far wider audience. Morgan has produced a DVD in which he plays his original music with the images he has created. It is a compelling experience. Morgan likes to show his photographs while he plays music that responds to the theme of his photographs.
It is our genuine pleasure to introduce you to the artistry and creativity of Morgan Fisher.
What artist and photographers have had an influence on you ?
As a teenager in London I started immersing myself in books on modern art and photography avidly (I raise my glass to all the public libraries!) as I had neither the money nor the time to visit galleries. I got far more from the intimate experience of looking at books quietly (perhaps while listening to music) on my own at home – much more than the intimidating experience of being in a gallery where you had to be quiet, places that were always clinically white and had no music or natural sounds to relax you. It was like the difference between seeing a live butterfly in my garden, or one pinned on a board in a lab at school. Some artists move me by working with abstract forms and light in a simple, essential way that I find very sympathetic (Jean Arp, Klee, Barbara Hepworth, Georgia O’Keeffe in the world of painting; in photography I can cite “Emanation” (a “light drawing” by Barbara Morgan in 1940), the Metaflora of Walter Chappell, the cut-paper forms of Frances Bruguière, Thomas Wilfred’s “Lumia.” Others inspired me by the bold way they pushed the limits of art, encouraging me to experiment more and more freely: Man Ray, Dali, Dada, Marinetti… then there were the abstract film makers; Len Lye, Oskar Fischinger, Norman McLaren, James Whitney.
I have to say though, that over and above all these examples which I am choosing now to try to “fit” neatly the work I do (and influences are rarely so direct, otherwise one is just copying), was the influence of music. I was 13 when I first heard the Beatles’ first record pouring out of my parent’s old radio. The timing was perfect and the effect was shattering. By age 16 I was watching Jimi Hendrix playing (with as much fire as he did at Woodstock) in London pubs! I also saw James Brown that year, and from 17 the visits to live shows expanded exponentially, David Bowie when he was still Davy Jones, Pink Floyd, The Who, Blood Sweat and Tears, King Crimson, and on and on. I believe these powerful experiences permanently altered my brain, soul, being, whatever you wish to call it. As experimental a composer as Terry Riley has told me that he was sure I must have had experiences of acid (LSD) in order to do the art and music I have been doing. Er no, just the odd beer, actually. One needs drugs when you are being exposed to massively rich sound worlds of this nature? Aren’t they enough in themselves?
So all the art-related names above (and I can recite hundreds more) are the symptoms, the signposts, and the end results of my having had my creative switches turned on and my educationally implanted blocks turned off in a wonderful way by the power of music and sound.
What inspires you?
Well, these days it may simply be, seeing an unusual new lightbulb in a shop, and buying it and taking it home to see what images I can create with it. But what inspired me to get on this direction that I have pursued for over twenty years was seeing photographs of Christmas lights that I had taken in Hawaii, most of which suffered from bad hand shake, as the exposures were very long. And then suddenly switching into seeing them as interesting new art forms, and then pursuing that in any way I could. So, seeing a “mistake” as a new door. Alan Watts used to talk about the “wiggly world” that we live in, that it is man only who has fixed, definite plans and likes to construct straight lines. Nature is happily wiggling and wobbling and making waves, on all levels from the subatomic to the galactic.
So, I have acquired the habit of seeing the miraculous in daily life – the complex reflections of sunlight inside a teacup, the cracked tiles in the pavement, the rust on the door of a train. The one visual thing that attracts my eye on a daily basis is water – in a river, a bath, a tap. It could be the transparent ever-changing forms of the water itself, or the myriad colors of things reflected in it; essentially it is the movement that attracts me, the flow. Not entirely random, free within certain parameters, and possessing grace and beauty, naturally, effortlessly, delightfully.
What influence has living in Japan had on your art, your music?
I moved to Japan on a whim in 1985. I came with nothing – no money, no job, no cameras or instruments (I had sold them all so I could travel the world for a few years), and not a word of Japanese. I felt at home here immediately and I’m still here. I was soon given opportunities to start playing in public, the way I had only played in private before. Improvising, making sound experiments, etc. – taking risks, on my own, instead of with a successful rock band who had a number of hit songs to guarantee a good audience reaction. Here, I found that the audiences were very attentive and receptive to my faltering efforts. This encouraged me to go further into improvisation and ambient music, and really adopt that “God is in the details” approach. I don’t think I am “becoming Japanese” – I have never studied any Japanese art such as brush painting, archery, etc. In fact, since choosing the creative life over 40 years ago I have by far preferred immersion – osmosis – to hard studying (well, perhaps not in the case of a new computer!). I should say that I have always appreciated the way that Japanese art and music has not had to go from a logical, realist phase via an avant-garde revolution to a modern, experimental phase. They never bothered with either, just created from the heart, from feeling nature, and above all allowing space/silence to play a great part in both the visual and musical arts. So, simply being here has given me the space and freedom to relax more and more into following my impulses (especially the subtle ones) and trusting my intuition rather than my logic.
Within a couple of years of being here, I was able to buy my first good camera, a Contax RTS with a fine Zeiss macro lens. I wandered the streets, temples and parks of Tokyo, and rapidly moved from taking photographs of “Japanese” things and people, to simply waiting for small visual things to call to me – such as flaking posters on walls, rust, peeling paint. Decay was an initial interest – a kind of joint effort: man making things and nature morphing them into something else before finally wearing them away to nothing. Then flowers called to me, as they are plentiful here, and like Georgia O’Keeffe I moved closer and closer to them till the forms became abstract. I’d get so close that dew might drop on the lens and produce halation. Fine – another element in the composition!
Yes, I could have done this anywhere, but being so completely and obviously an outsider here gave me the courage to be more “eccentric” in my search for new images, going nose-to-nose with lamp posts, crawling through flower beds and bushes or, in more recent times, waving my camera around rapidly to make light paintings out of urban rivers and waterfalls (some of the “Hikari” images). I am left very much alone, people do not look at me, or judge me, and even if they are chatting amongst themselves, I can tune it out, as Japanese is still a very foreign language to me, albeit one that I know fairly well now. So, this country has kindly given me a peaceful environment in which to create – yes even in Blade Runner city – and I am grateful, and deeply touched by their quiet courage and resourcefulness in the wake of recent disasters. Arigato!
Please visit the Morgan Fisher Gallery Page on this site, and to see more of his wonderful work go to morganfisherart.com
Also Morgan’s large prints can be viewed on the Winfield Gallery site winfieldgallery.com in their works on paper Morgan Fisher section.
His next exhibition will be at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, Tokyo, Dec. 8 2012 to Jan. 11 2013.
Let’s hope we can announce his next show here in the states.