Pitzhanger Manor's Idris Khan and Annie Morris exhibition opens
Updated: Oct 19
Pitzhanger Manor in west London has teamed up with not one but two exciting contemporary artists for a new exhibition: Idris Khan and Annie Morris.
An art power-couple who have been together for over ten years, this is a joint art exhibition at the Ealing gallery and is their first in London. It explores emotion, time, and memory, and creates a dialogue with the stunning neo-classical manor its housed in.
Titled When Loss Makes Melodies, the exhibition considers the meeting point of the pair’s diverse art practices and how, over time, they have come to influence each other. It's an expanded version of their very first joint exhibition, which was held at the Newlands House Gallery in West Sussex. The show show presents the individual practices of the artist couple in tandem.
Visitors get to see over thirty striking artworks in Pitzhanger's dedicated contemporary art gallery. But works such as sculpture, photography, painting and embroidery also spread out into the historic 19th-century Manor house.
Exhibiting their works side-by-side strongly emphasises the artistic influences between them both. The most obvious is Morris’ vibrant use of colour, which has inspired traditionally monochrome Khan to work with a more diversified palette.
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Pitzhanger Manor was the country home of famed architect Sir John Soane, who is one of the most influential architects in England's history. The house was his rural retreat (long before Ealing was merged into the expanding London metropolis) and it was built and lived in by Soane himself. It reopened to visitors in spring 2019 following a major £12 million conservation and restoration project which returned the Manor to his original design.
Khan and Morris follow in the footsteps of a number of other contemporary artists to have enjoyed exhibitions at Pitzhanger. Rana Begum, Anish Kapoor and Es Devlin have all previously had the honour in recent years.
Today, Pitzhanger promotes Sir John Soane’s legacy as a famed craftsman, but it also reflects his personal story. This exhibition is no different, and throughout the show both Khan and Morris grapple with their own understanding of memory, love and loss. These are emotions that echo those of architect John Soane whose painful familial estrangement played out at Pitzhanger.
Soane intended Pitzhanger Manor to be a site of family contentment and generational architectural tradition. This hope was however shattered by the death of Soane’s wife, Eliza, and his estrangement from his two sons. Never quite able to mitigate his loss, Soane continued to commission paintings of Pitzhanger Manor long after the house was sold.
Morris draws inspiration from her life experiences in her work, expressing them dramatically in her trademark Stack sculptures. The sculptures, which began in 2014 following the artist’s grief after the loss of a baby, comprise of precarious irregular spheres balanced into columns. These Stacks echo the swell of pregnancy and act as a replica of Morris’ loss. Playful yet poignantly contemplative, each sphere with its vivid hue suggests a persistence to find joy amid adversity. One of Khan’s most personal works on show is My Mother (2015), a sculpture composed of every printed photograph from his late mother’s lifetime. By casting the group of approximately three hundred and sixty images in Jesmonite, Khan formed an abstract monument that poignantly collapses memory and time into one singular form.
Khan also nods to the Soane's personal friendships. every... William Turner postcard from Tate Britain (2004) reveals his interest in the relationship between photography and the ability to manipulate imagery to represent echoes from the past. This work is particularly suited to its location here at Pitzhanger — in the bedroom — as Soane’s great friend J.M.W Turner was the only guest allowed to stay overnight at the Manor. Khan has layered the photographs on top of one another, creating a blurred composition where memory and time seem to overlap. On announcing the exhibition, Clare Gough, Director of Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery said: “We are thrilled to welcome the art of Annie Morris and Idris Khan. Their combined work resonates so beautifully together and intriguingly with Sir John Soane’s unique story, adding a vibrant dialogue between the contemporary and the neo-classical." Idris Khan & Annie Morris have promised that the show demonstrates how their work "can’t help but collide in beautiful ways.”
Idris Khan & Annie Morris: When Loss Makes Melodies is at Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery in London from 4 October 2023 until 7 January 2024. Free entry can be enjoyed every Thursday 17:00 — 20:00 for all visitors during the run.
— Also on in London in autumn 2023: David Hockney at the National Portrait Gallery.