Mummy Baby Daddy (detail), 2008, oil on canvas, 17 1/8 x 19 7/8".


The painter Victoria Morton, who lives and works in Glasgow and in Fossombrone, Italy, opens her third solo exhibition at Sadie Coles HQ in London on July 2. Here she discusses dividing her time between Scotland and Italy and the work included in the show.

I SPEND ABOUT a third of my year in Italy and have done so for about four years. In Italy, obviously, I have access to a vast amount of historical painting: For example, I work in the area in which Piero della Francesca painted, and it’s fascinating to drive through the landscape that appears in the background of his works. Working here is very different from working in Glasgow. That city has a brilliant, always-changing art scene, and I’m lucky to be part of it. But having a combination of the two works best for me: I like to be involved but then to disappear and work quietly on my own. In Italy, my working life and my private life are integrated such that I can spend more time looking at my work, and things develop in a more organic fashion.

In my last exhibition at Sadie Coles, the paintings I showed did not rest flat against the walls, but rather were freestanding. This time, my continued interest in the space of painting—and how it operates psychologically on the viewer—has again led me to move around the normal conventions of the practice: Several of the pieces will rest on the floor, and others will be surrounded by a frame that has been painted as if it were an extension of the canvas. Neither of these are canny, “strategic” developments, but instead are natural explorations made during my time in the studio.

I listened to Bonnie Prince Billy’s album The Letting Go constantly while I was working on the paintings. It’s a very strange record; there are slightly odd but nonetheless beautiful songs on it. There is something about its storytelling aspects and its atmosphere, which is slightly dark but intimate, that could certainly characterize one or two of the works in the exhibition. I’m interested in the idea of folklore and storytelling, which is why I don’t describe my paintings as abstract; for me, there is a definite figurative element. I’m not trying to structure a particular narrative, but the creation of each painting is a chance for me to bring to the forefront some aspect of what’s going on around me. In the works in this show, I have used quite specific images that have perhaps ended up seeming abstract, but it is a body of work that to my mind is interrelated and hopefully makes sense as a situation that unfolds around the viewer, akin to a long novel with many characters and complicated scenarios. In a sense, then, the viewer can become part of that structure—can become the “figure” in the painting as the show is reconstructed in his or her mind. For me, that kind of clashing and bringing together of lots of different elements is a kind of realism.

— As told to Brian Sholis