Janet Morton: She’s Come Undone
Will Janet Morton forever be known as the woman who knitted a massive cozy for her house?
Perhaps. But the artist’s newest streams of work—currently on view at Museum London, with more shows to come in Toronto and Guelph—would seem to undo the one-dimensional reputation woven by that 1999 domicile-enshrouding mass.
“Increasingly, I find myself thinking about unraveling,” Morton says over the phone from her home in Guelph. “I guess it’s kind of a logical progression after 11 years of making monumental work—moving into a tangled space.”
Morton points to the 2011 sculpture She’s Come Undone, on display in London, as an example of this shift in thinking.
“There’s a knitted element that hangs and underneath, it’s just this snarling, convoluted, multicoloured mass, “ she says, adding jokingly, “It kind of feels like my Riopelle stage!”
Working with throwaway items is another surging area of interest for Morton. Her 2007 sculpture overgrown, which at first looks like a large, knitted, vegetative wall, reveals small, junky elements when viewed up close, says the artist—“all kinds of bottle caps, those little plastic things you pull off the inside of juice containers, bread tags, children’s toy cars.” Her accumulus nimbus, one of the newest works on view in London, jettisons the yarn element altogether, forming a cloudlike shape out of similar detritus.
Even the works at Museum London which resemble Morton’s “traditional” knitted techniques are taking on other dimensions elsewhere: Her piece Ionic with zippers is a 12-foot-high knitted Greco-Roman column designed to be fitted onto standard hydro poles. Though it’s being shown in London on its own, Morton has been installing it over the past few years on poles in Guelph neighbourhoods and documenting those brief interventions photographically.
“It’s amazing how all this great farmland around Guelph has been gobbled up by particleboard subdivisions,” she says. “It got me thinking about architectural longevity given that these subdivisions often have a short-term thinking attached to them.”
Morton hopes the photos of Ionic will be part of her career survey, which commences next September at Macdonald Stewart Art Centre in Guelph—an exhibition that will see the installation of her first-ever permanent outdoor work (at MSAC’s sculpture garden) and a return to video following a 15-year hiatus.
“In creating knitted works, one of the questions people always have is around time investment,” says the artist, who originally started out as a painter. “So when talking about things ‘coming apart,’ I wanted to use a time-based medium.”
Torontonians curious to take a look at Morton’s progress will be able to get a peek in October, when She’s Come Undone will be part of “Crossing Natures,” a group exhibition at Paul Petro Contemporary Art that includes Morton alongside Joyce Wieland, Mélanie Rocan and Yvonne Housser.