Nikky Morgan-Smith


August 26 - September 9 2017

Throughout the ages, the marvel of birds in flight has fascinated mankind. It came to symbolise freedom and the imagination: an elevation above the merely corporeal. Kindred musings have prompted Nikky Morgan-Smith's ongoing interest in winged creatures as both image and metaphor.

The title for her latest body of work relates to the phenomena of starling murmurations. Hundreds, even thousands, of flocking birds flying in minutely close formation are instantaneously able to change direction in perfect, undulating unison. This extraordinary spectacle presents like some vast, living entity. Morgan-Smith's Murmuration paintings beautifully express the unpredictable fluidity and rhythm of such.

It has always been one of Morgan-Smith's creative aspirations to ‘capture' the essence of energy, movement and change upon the two dimensional plane. Correspondingly, and perhaps surprisingly, it is the scientific explanation for the uncanny coordination of these murmurations rather than their visible manifestations that gave impetus to recent works - "the critical transitions: systems that are poised to tip, to be almost instantly and completely transformed, like metals becoming magnetised or liquid turning to gas".

Rising, vortex-like, amidst surface tensions of multiple coloured layers, gestural brushwork, paint runnels, filigreed markings, linear verve and an ambiguity of form and ground, Morgan-Smith's imagery negotiates thresholds between medium and meaning. She explains that her mixed-media paintings are created without premeditation or the notion of a conclusion. There are no preliminary sketches and chance plays an integral role. "For me the narrative unfolds and becomes more complex and meaningful as I work with it," she clarifies. "Eventually the imagery develops a whole other existence. This is my favourite thing in the creative act; the exhilaration of watching something take shape that wasn't there before."

"The current paintings explore the idea of mapping change and encapsulating motion," continues Morgan-Smith. "I am enjoying the use of screen-printing to generate this feeling for animation but I don't use the screens in a traditional way. I layer the prints across painted and aerosol-sprayed areas in a disordered type of repetition and then smudge, paint and scribble over them. I love the resultant luminosity this delicate layering produces in the winged works."

Peacocks soar free of archetypal epithets. Rose or gold-tipped feathers and fluttering indigo moths appear to whorl about a diaphanous axis mundi, the mythic pole linking earth and sky, above and below. The aesthetic potency of Morgan-Smith's imagery enlivens our sensibilities. Her intuitive, visceral process communicates ‘essence' and the magic of murmuration. Therein lies a visual poetry as she attempts to express the ineffable and demonstrate the interconnectedness of all things through her art making.


Nikky Morgan-Smith's studio is nestled amidst the forests of the Byron Shire hinterland. Apart from a decade spent in Melbourne after completing her art training, these subtropical wilds are where she has lived and worked. She holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts, SCU, Lismore and RMIT, Melbourne. Her participation in art awards includes: Winner of Coriki Art Prize 2011; Highly Commended Belligen Art Prize 2010; Finalist Belligen Art Prize 2010; Finalist Border Art Prize 2009; Finalist She Art Prize 2009; Highly Commended SCU Student Art Prize 2008. Her work has been represented at International Art Fairs in London, Toronto, Mexico City, Singapore, Amsterdam, New York and Brussels. In 2014 she undertook a Residency in Le Couvent d'Auzits, South West France.

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