Background and education
Morris spent his childhood in rural Somerset before the family moved to the United States, where he attended the progressive Putney School in Vermont. There his precocious talent for painting, inspired by the surrealists in New York, was given full rein. On his return to the UK in 1947, after completion of National Service in the army and spells at art schools in London (Anglo-French Art Centre) and Paris (L'Académie de la Grande Chaumière), he finished his art education at the Royal Academy Schools.
Although a dedicated painter all his life, Morris was reserved in showing his work, but over the years from the mid-'50s he did exhibit at a number of leading London galleries, including the Leicester, St. George's and the Hanover. The Hayward Gallery showed sixteen of his works in their Annual '78, alongside artists including Sandra Blow, Elizabeth Frink and Stephen Cox. He sketched ideas for paintings at every opportunity, especially when he was away from his studio, teaching. Dominating themes were the earth, its vulnerability to both natural and man-made disasters and the effect on its inhabitants.
Morris was inspired in the 1960s by the NASA space exploration programme and the views of distant, barren terrain seen through a spacecraft hatch. Although figures, such as astronauts, refugees, wounded soldiers and poor rural workers, feature strongly in preliminary sketches, they seldom survive into the finished works - as William Packer observed in The Times, the figures had gone "leaving a space or structure in which a figure indeed might be, but as an implicit presence". These, typically, are painted in oil on gessoed panels, which are pared down to the minimum, every square inch minutely considered.
Exhibitions and critical opinion
Following a retrospective exhibition at the Redfern Gallery in London in May/June, 2008, works were included in their mixed autumn exhibition, 2009,. The gallery mounted a further one-man show of his paintings and works on paper from 8 June to 29 July 2010, and his works have featured in several group show at the Redfern Gallery subsequently: Landscape 2012; The Redfern Gallery at 90, 2013; and Aspects of Landscape, 2014. New Foundations, a one-man show of paintings was held at 42 Carlton Place, Glasgow, September/October 2015.
This "small, rigorous show...was a revelation. Working in oil on board, he used aperture devices to frame and articulate odd, unpeopled landscapes and marginal territories seen from an aerial perspective. The paintings hint at the journey within British painting between Surrealism and American Expressionism. The power of these works owes little to gesture and almost everything to economy, density and luminosity; Morris is an artist who should receive more posthumous attention". The Burlington Magazine, January 2016, Turner Prize, Glasgow Exhibitions, Moira Jeffry.
♦ "Morris's work speaks directly of the anxieties and hopes we now harbour about our planet's state in the 21st century. There is an impressive level of consistency and rigour running through his mature output. It amounts to a formidable corpus of work. The paintings' austere, hard-won and, above all precient eloquence deserves to be recognised today".
♦ "A distinctive and distinguished painter, his work is elusive of category, its own thing, minimal rather than minimalist, abstracted rather than abstract, worked always with a scrupulous address to the matter of the painting, not just as an image but as a thing".
♦ "Adrian Morris's work cannot easily be located in contemporary art...This image of pioneering work in remote places often acts as a metaphor of exploration into the mental or physical unknown or as the artist described it: 'Journeying out into space as far as the mind can go and one can physically follow, while at the same time retaining one's roots in the earth — man must and will migrate further'".
♦ "The images are tense and still, the paint rubbed into the gesso, layer on layer until it seems to become the material it depicts, metal and sand, amplifying the disquiet...Morris's imagery leads us to infer a somehow sacrosanct 'humanist' or 'existential' content.