After trying in 1964 to paint a ship from real life Morley turned to photographs of ships, which he copied in a meticulous trompe l'oeil style with the aid of a grid. These marked the beginning of Photorealism in the USA, although Morley preferred the term Super Realism. Replicating the original in an almost mechanical way and conceiving of the painting simply as a coloured surface, Morley undermined the distinction between the abstract and the figurative.
Although he abandoned Photorealism as a style in the early 1970s, Morley continued to examine the relationship between images and the objective reality they purported to portray. Even after adopting looser, more expressionist brushwork in the early 1970s, Morley remained committed to the conceptual approach to painting that had characterized his Photorealist works, with their focus on the process of painting.
From 1975 to 1976 he produced a number of pictures depicting scenes of disaster. A series of watercolours and drawings of the archaeology and landscape of Crete and Greece, which he visited in 1982, formed the basis of some of his later paintings. In 1984 Morley was the first recipient of the Turner Prize administered through the Tate Gallery in London.
K. Levin: ‘Malcolm Morley: Post-style Illusionism', A. Mag., xlvii/4 (1973), pp. 60–63; repr. in Super Realism: A Critical Anthology, ed. G. Battcock (New York, 1975), pp. 170–88
Malcolm Morley: Paintings, 1965–82 (exh. cat. by M. Compton, Basle, Ksthalle; Rotterdam, Boymans–van Beuningen; London, Whitechapel A.G.; and elsewhere; 1983–4)
Malcolm Morley (exh. cat. by J. Yau, London, Fabian Carlsson Gal., 1985)
Malcolm Morley: New Paintings and Watercolours, 1984–1986 (exh. cat., New York, Xavier Fourcade, 1986)
Malcolm Morley (exh. cat., New York, Pace Gal., 1988)
Malcolm Morley (exh. cat., London, Anthony d'Offay Gal., 1990)
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