London born Graffiti artist, George Morton-Clark uses his work as a form of social criticism. His elegant brush strokes create the perfect contrast to scenes of prostitution and violence.
His hometown obviously has a great influence on Morton-Clark’s work, “If it weren’t for the city, my paintings would not have such intensity.” But despite his love for the big smoke, Morton-Clark admits it has flaws. “Growing up in London is a tough game. You have a different head screwed on when you’re there. You’re constantly paranoid and angry – looking over your shoulder at all times.” Obviously this is not the same for all born and bred Londoners, but for many, the city acts as a school of self-protection. One that tends to knock you down before it builds you back up.
There are suggestions of violence and aggression within Morton-Clark’s work. From the eyes, glossy with fear, a victim face to face with their executioner, the neon bloody handprint over the mouth of a terrified victim. Not to mention the symbolic snubbing out of subjects, recognized by the single line painted across the eyes. One of Morton-Clark’s most beautiful paintings is Moss, in which the influence of Manga is clear. There is a subtle strength to twisted beauty and this painting is the perfect example. The strike across her eyes is gentler than on other paintings. The harsh lettering and the vulnerable sense of loss in her Bambi eyes all grab you from the first glimpse.
Among many fans, Morton-Clark has managed to impress a few rock star collectors including Liam Howlett of The Prodigy and Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones. Morton-Clark’s career in art began ten years ago, shortly after he completed a course in animation. Upon realising that life in an industry that allows no artistic freedom would leave him cold, he began painting. A year later he was content that this was the right path. These days, aware that studying animation gave him a unique approach to his art, he lives without regret.
“People tell me that I have issues, but then I tell them, I’m putting it down on canvas instead of walking into a Post Office with a shotgun.”
Morton-Clark’s desire to create began early in life. Thanks to his supportive mother, he was given an early education in classic art, as she took him to all the galleries London had to offer. A great deal of artists could be credited for their influence on Morton-Clark, “The Baroque period had a great influence on me. I admire Leonardo da Vinci for his technique. I used to study his drawings for hours along with Rembrandt’s.” Modern influences come from Jamie Hewlett and Manga comics but the greatest influence was a childhood spent watching cartoons. From childhood, Morton-Clark harboured a desire to become an artist, but a career in comedy also appealed, “I feel that my art has a dark humour to it. Anyway all artists I meet seem to have a comedic side to them.”
The themes of anger and violence play a large part in Morton-Clark’s work. The act of creation is a release from these emotions, preventing the artist from taking out his anger on the general public. “People tell me that I have issues, but then I tell them, I’m putting it down on canvas instead of walking into a Post Office with a shotgun.” It makes you wonder how many others there are committing violent acts of frustration that could be saved by a paintbrush.
Never one to shy away from controversy, Morton-Clark is skilled when it comes to using art as a form of social criticism. At the Cans Festival in London, 2008, he mocked headlining artist Banksy by creating a giant mannequin clutching onto a suitcase filled with £20 notes – a statement about the financial motives dominating street art. Though Morton-Clark agrees that art is a good medium for social criticism, he advises people to be careful how they deliver it. “You must remember that art can but read in so many ways and you have to make sure that it’s not read the wrong way.”
To combat anger, he explores the world, “I try and escape the city for two months of the year to give myself a fresh look on life and stop me from going insane.” He states that freedom is the greatest thing about his job as it allows him to travel a great deal. Currently enjoying a break, this interview was conducted as he gazed over the skyline of Manila, in the Philippines. When asked what makes him happiest, Morton-Clark replies, “When I am creating or when I have finished a good piece. That lasts for about a day and then I have to start all over again!”
Fully aware of the opportunity he has been given, Morton-Clark is making the most of his career, “Being an artist gives you a voice, which I believe is very important in society. I feel that a lot of people don’t have a voice, whether it’s their choice or not, so I try to speak for a broad range of society.” He is critical of the government and their attitudes towards life, “I think at the moment the world has got a lot of things wrong. We should look back in history and realise that we’ve made all these mistakes already, then use this information to correct things.”
By Lily Mercer.