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The portal you are seeking

September to October 2023

galerie zadra Basel, Switzerland


In this exhibition of new paintings, the portal you are seeking, Michele Morcos delves deeper into her investigation of landscape. Where the work The Enlightenment (2022) spoke to the spirituality and energy of the land, this new series shifts her gaze higher to focus on the sky, and to consider the relationship between earth and sky as one.



In traditional Western landscape painting, the land – as the genre’s name implies - is the star. When the sky is given consideration, it is often in a minor role in a painting performance presented in three acts: foreground, middle ground and background. The scene presented may be populated with animals or a scattering of humans, vegetation and geological formations and possibly evidence of our built environment. The only time we really pay much attention to the sky is when it is dramatically rendered: brooding storm clouds or a brilliant summer blue.


For Morcos, however, putting an emphasis on the land tells only half the story. With this body of work, Michele wanted to be more “wholistic, to think of the whole picture, of the earth and sky together”[i]. Behind this idea is the recognition that the quality of direct and reflected light shape how we see and experience any given landscape. Light enables us to see colour and texture; it is constantly changing, and so too does the appearance of the scene before us, if we stand still long enough. Its malleable quality is shaped by atmospherics like clouds, dust, humidity and the orbit of the sun.


Light, colour and texture have long been important in Morcos’ work. The natural impressions of the surroundings she lives in and connects with inspires the philosophical and scientific research behind her multi-form practice. In this series of works, finding the geometry and perspectives between her internal and external worlds becomes possible, she says, in considering the patternation in the natural environment, for example in cloud formations: “Each painting tells a different cloud story”[ii].


These cloud patterns are echoed softly in the earth below and the earth lends hints of colour to the sky, and while they are not mirror images of each other, there is a clear communion between them. Morcos explains that she has started “reading [the sky-land view] as one pattern”[iii]. They are no longer distinct entities delineated by a horizon, but flow into and influence each other like a continuous piece of energetic fabric or tapestry.


Indeed Morcos’ concept of cloud patternation is closely linked to her weaving practice as well as her philosophical explorations of time and space, which she often describes in the language of textiles. In both areas, she sees repeated patterns and thematic variations that point to the interconnection of all matter and energy. Just as each binding in a weaving determines the shape and texture of the woven object, the knotting of light through storm clouds or its shining brilliance in a cloudless noon sky “finish” the swathe of landscape in our mind’s eye.


When we begin to consider the two halves as one as Morcos has done, we begin to understand their symbiosis: There cannot be one without the other. Morcos astutely and sensitively demonstrates that the sky holds equal star billing on the stage that is landscape painting.


Essay by Karen Zadra



[i] Michele Morcos, phone conversation with Karen Zadra, September 2023.

[ii] ibid.

[iii] Ibid.



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