The Death of Lady Mondegreen
19 June–20 September 2015*
*Due to essential building maintenance, we have had to close Gallery 3 at GoMA to the public. As a result, Douglas Morland’s ‘The Death of Lady Mondegreen’, exhibition has closed sooner than planned . We are very sorry for any disappointment caused. We were delighted to show this incredible work and look forward to working with Douglas again in the future.
This solo exhibition by the Glasgow based artist Douglas Morland opened in June and we have had some great feedback about the work in the comments book. We are delighted that the artist will also be running the Adult Art club on Sunday 23 August and more info on that and how to book is here.
The exhibition’s title references a 1954 essay by Sylvia Wright in Harper’s Magazine in which she coined the term ‘mondegreen’, the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase in a song or poem in a way that gives rise to a new meaning. Wright recalled the deep effect made on her as a child by hearing one particular verse of the Scots ballad, The Bonnie Earl o’ Moray:
Ye Hielands an ye Lowlands, o, whaur hae ye been
They hae slain the Earl o’ Moray and lain him on the green.
She misheard the final line as ‘they have slain the Earl o’ Moray, and Lady Mondegreen’, and proceeded to imagine the most vivid scene of tragedy and loss:
‘I saw it all clearly. The Earl … was lying in a forest clearing with an arrow in his heart. Lady Mondegreen lay at his side. She wore a dark green dress embroidered with light green leaves outlined in gold. It had a low neck trimmed with lace. An arrow had pierced her throat: from it blood trickled over the lace. Sunlight coming through the leaves made dappled shadows on her cheeks and her closed eyelids. She was holding the Earl’s hand’
The fictive space that Wright’s mishearing opened was snapped shut years later upon hearing the line as it really is – her vivid depiction only ever having existed in an imaginary realm.
Morland’s exhibition takes this idea of mishearing or mistranslation as a starting point to create an assemblage of works that tease at creating echoes and suggestions of form and meaning. Utilising a variety of forms, motifs, textures and processes that have appeared previously in his practice and through a process of composition, veiling and revealing, a fictive space is suggested – the stage-like space where the dramatic tussle of language to form or discern meaning takes place.
The materials and processes at play in the first two rooms stress the artist’s interest in the physicality of information. Both the delicate, ‘barely there’ toner prints on paper and the large, crude, black casts of concrete objects, themselves originating from flat typographic sources, function as shadows, traces or phantoms and imply a journey from source to copy where something may inevitably be lost, gained or redefined along the way.
The use of fine ink-dipped translucent fabric, cut, stretched, bunched or hanging loose and curtainlike, similarly invites the viewer to think about physical weight and presence. A game of conceal and reveal takes place, with the seductive marbling of the ink pattern vying with the moiré patterns that arise from the layering of the fabric’s mesh. These notes of sensuality and theatrical artifice are perhaps nods to the fictitious Lady of the title, or could simply be an acknowledgement of the role aesthetics plays in systems of communication.
While the installation is dominated by concerns for shape, form and texture, the imagery found in the printed paper work appears like a set of cryptic clues, depicting objects that can be transformed from their original function. Morland also suggests rhythmic or structural similarities between the construction and delivery of verse and of the sculptural assemblages and wall work. Echoes and repetition of forms throughout the exhibition spaces imply a movement through time as well as space.
Similarly, Morland’s film, Broadcast Rites, which plays in the third room, deals with issues to do with the transmission, reception and physicality of information as well as its modes of presentation. Disjunctures in time and space are revealed by references to a ‘break’ or ‘cut’ throughout – also a reference to the most basic cinematic device, the cut of the editor. The film’s two characters – a mid- 20th-century broadcast announcer and an ancient Greek slave messenger who appears intermittently and ghost-like – seem completely incongruous in the same space and time.
However, as the announcer slips in and out of his role and the pace becomes more and more dreamlike, a connecting thread becomes apparent between the two. The film’s soundtrack is a key structural device and, like the work in the first two rooms (where motifs and forms from the film are obliquely echoed), beats out a kind of metered journey of encounter.
Douglas Morland (b.1974) is a Glasgow-based artist and musician. He studied Drawing and Painting then attended the Master of Fine Art programme at The Glasgow School of Art. He has exhibited extensively, in the UK and internationally.