Recently, Outside In Manager Jennifer Gilbert visited the house of renowned artist Raymond Morris. Here, she describes the experience of seeing his work in the flesh.
Through the envelope covered door of Raymond Morris’ house, you are greeted with a numerous surprises. The envelopes are from those who continue to tell Raymond he needs a TV licence regardless of the fact he doesn’t own a television – he is quite content reading a good book or tuning in to his old radio. As a result of these continuous redundant letters, Raymond displays them on his front door.
Raymond Morris owes his existence as an artist to Tony; another artist, and John Maizels; Editor of Raw Vision magazine. Raymond first met Tony when he visited an exhibition of Tony’s work in West Hampstead – although he doesn’t recall his last name and has not seen the artist since. The two men got talking and Tony asked to see some of Raymond’s work. Following this, Tony suggested that Raymond get in touch with Raw Vision Magazine; a journal focusing on Outsider Art and Art Brut. Raymond did just this, and has since had his work featured in two issues of the magazine. Raymond iterates that if it was not for Tony’s advice he would still be sitting in his flat creating work with no one knowing of its existence.
When looking around Raymond’s flat it is clear that his oeuvre encompasses many styles and mediums; from watercolours, to oils, to pen and ink, to sculpture. Since 1985 he has called himself ‘an extractor’, claiming, simply, that line is idea and that all lines have a consciousness to them. Despite this vast oeuvre, Raymond maintains that all of his works derive from the same though process, and are therefore interconnected. Although Raymond works changeably with different mediums, he always focuses on one piece at a time.
Every wall, side and cupboard within the flat is filled with drawings, paintings and sculptures – even the ash tray looks like a sculpture in itself. Raymond frames large amounts of his drawings to preserve them, either in shop bought frames or in frames made from cupboard doors with glass over them, held together with string. His work – framed in this way – is currently hanging in the Halle Saint Pierre in Paris until 22nd August as part of the Raw Vision 25th anniversary exhibition.
It is Raymond’s black and white drawings that I am drawn to – with whimsical and mysterious lines and faces covering the pages. The framing of many of the larger drawings is eye-catching – especially pieces like ‘The Quiv’, which cost £10 to make and incorporates pottery and other found objects that the artist has collected over the years. The frame itself was £8 and Raymond spent £2 on four pens. Raymond says the drawing is not finished, and he would have liked to have bought more pens to carry on if he had the money at the time. It’s a fascinating piece and one that, having seen it previously in Raw Vision Magazine, is incredibly impressive in the flesh.
Raymond has now decided that he has reached his peak in terms of art-making, and will no longer create his work due to a fear of it being sub-standard (in his own opinion). In recent years, he has focused more on sculpture and poetry. He sees his sculptures – made from nylon clay and lying on the floor of his flat – as architecture, with the hope that one day an architect may used his designs as inspiration.
Raymond now rarely exhibits his work in public. He used to sell it for next to nothing, but he won’t allow himself to do that any more. Calling himself a ‘master of the arts,’ Raymond says that people don’t understand him and his art and often give him a wide birth when walking past him. Having lived for 32 years in the same London flat and created 99% of his work in it, Raymond is now desperately after change and would love to move to the South West of England for a more laid-back life. His plans are currently on hold as he awaits a decision from the council.