Paul F Cockburn speaks with artist Cameron Morgan about his Unlimited-funded exhibition of paintings, TV Classics – Part 1, part of this year’s Glasgow International.
Television was a big part of Cameron Morgan’s life as a child but, growing up in the 1970s and early 1980s, it was a very different experience from today.
“I remember as a lad I used to put on the TV first thing and you couldn’t get anything; first thing you used to just get the test card on the BBC, while STV had this clock thing. You only had BBC1, BBC2 and STV, and it didn’t come on till dinner-time, like. It used to shut early, around 12 o’clock at night.”
Not that Morgan resents such limits; he still loves the programmes from those decades, and earlier.
“I like watching old films and old TV shows from the 1950s and ‘60s and later. They made programmes a lot different then; I think they made them more enjoyable to watch. I have quite a lot of DVDs of old TV programmes: The Saint, Columbo, The A-Team. They don’t always make the [kinds of] programmes I like now. There’s too much of your CSI… There’s not enough fun in them, I think.”
Nor is it just old programmes he prefers; Morgan also has his doubts about modern televisions.
“Televisions seem to get wider and wider! I kind of like the old TVs; you could push buttons! TVs have just got a lot plainer looking; the only thing you seem to get now on them is the company name, like Sony, and the remote controls aren’t always easy to use. It can drive me crackers half the time! That’s me when it comes to technology, I can just about work my camera and my DVD player; but the more complex they get, there’s just too much for me to remember.”
Morgan’s love of classic TV programmes and classic television sets, are obvious in the series of nine paintings now exhibited under the title TV Classics Part 1. Each painting combines an image from an iconic TV show or film representing a particular decade – from the 1930s to the 2010s – along with a representative TV set of the period. So how did Morgan select the subjects for each painting and decade?
“I was just interested in coming up with a good image; with the likes of The Voice, you think of the chairs and the microphone. With The A-Team, it’s Mr T, a nice strong image for each decade.”
Morgan spent six months in the art studio of Glasgow-based Project Ability, of which he’s been a regular attendee since 1991.
“They’ve been good to me over the years; they’ve given me the opportunity to do this. I’ve been very busy, painting, but I like doing ceramics. I’ll put my hands to anything. I enjoy it.”
Producer Elizabeth Gibson helped put together Morgan’s successful application for support from the Unlimited programme, which was announced in March 2015. Then, Morgan’s long creative process began, choosing and researching not just his favourite TV shows but also the televisions and even the wallpaper commonly used in people’s living rooms at the time.
“I did all the preliminary drawings last year, and then the paintings this year. So I’ve been working quite hard, coming in every day.”
Morgan is the first to agree that this exhibition just wouldn’t have happened without the Unlimited commission; it covered the costs of not only producing the work but also promoting it – through the creation of a website and advertising posters that can currently be seen in each of the 15 stations making up Glasgow’s circular subway.
Additional mentoring support, also funded by Unlimited, helped ensure that Morgan’s project was kept on track over the subsequent 12 months. Following the showing at Project Ability, Morgan’s paintings will tour to Celf O Gwmpas in mid-Wales during the summer and London’s Southbank Centre in September, as part of the 2016 Unlimited festival.
Talking with Morgan a few days before his exhibition officially opens, he’s naturally excited and looking forward to welcoming his friends to see the show – as well as attending a civic reception in Glasgow’s beautiful City Chambers building as part of the official opening of the Glasgow International arts festival, of which TV Classics Part 1 is a part.
Morgan is already working on other projects, having just the day before modelled a ceramic cat. However, given the title of his Unlimited commissioned exhibition, are we likely to see a TV Classics Part 2 at some point?
“I’ve no any ideas in mind at the moment; it depends what the project is, what the theme is. I tend not to think too much; I struggle with ideas, but if somebody gives me something, I run with it. If they say we’re doing this object, or theme, I’ll go with the flow. I tend to work like that.”
TV Classics Part 1 is exhibited at Project Ability, 103 Trongate, Glasgow (8-25 April 2016) as part of the Glasgow International festival, see here for listings information. It will transfer to Celf O Gwmpas (Llandrindod Wells, Wales) this summer and to the Southbank Centre, London, in September, see here for further information.