Pitzhanger Manor in leafy Ealing, West London, the majestic former home of architect Sir John Soane, built in the neo-classical style, is the majestic setting for a new exhibition by artist couple Idris Khan and Annie Morris.
‘When Loss Makes Melodies’ is curated by Maya Binkin, who also curated ‘Two Worlds Entwined’ at Newlands House Gallery in Sussex earlier in 2023, which was the first joint UK exhibition of the prolific artist duo.
‘When Loss Makes Melodies’ at Pitzhanger Manor features over thirty works including sculpture, painting, embroidery, film and photography, that take over the main gallery and are subtly positioned throughout the Manor house. Morris’s signature totem sculptures made of delicately balance, brightly coloured spheres popping with bright paint pigments, harmonise with Khan’s more abstract artworks, and take visitors on a journey through emotions and personal loss which respects the memory of the Manor house and its previous inhabitants.
There is a synchronicity between Khan and Morris which seems to derive not only from their status as a married couple, but from a visual and emotional language that connects them on a far deeper level and translates into their artistic practice. Morris’s bright palette and playful shapes stimulate a visual conversation with Khan’s contemplative tones and sculptural forms. Although Morris’s towering Stack sculptures vibrate with colour, they represent the artist’s personal loss, while artworks by Khan, such as My Mother, weave a rich tapestry of personal experiences and cultural memories through abstraction.
Gentle interventions mastered by curator Binkin play to the strengths of each artist, highlighting their individuality yet finding a common ground, and merging with the neo-classical surroundings. Khan’s bespoke bed linen covers Sir John Soane’s bed in the master bedroom, and is juxtaposed with a painting after Turner (a good friend of Soane’s and frequent dinner party guest at Pitzhanger Manor), while a pair of Morris’s hand-embroidered armchairs grace Soanes’s upper drawing room, and Khan has applied delicate screensprints to the conversatory windows which provide a beautiful lens to the gardens outside.
The Pitzhanger exhibition sews a thread from neo-classical to contemporary art, examining how two different artists, connected professionally and intimately, unite in artistic expression. Idris Khan, born in 1978 in Birmingham to a British-Muslim Pakistani family, was honoured in 2017 for his contribution to the arts. His artistic practice is inspired by a complex heritage and family history and focuses on photography and the physical constraints of time.
Annie Morris was also born in 1978 and creates art that on the surface appears bright and breezy, cheerful. However, dig a bit deeper and it becomes clear that her art is an emotional and creative outlet for moments of personal grief that the artist experienced. Morris’s sculptures, paintings and tapestries are a conduit for the strength of the human spirit.