Behold a figure, Serpentine: An Interview with Artist Louis Morlet

Art — 20.07.18

Interview: Madeleine Morlet
Photography: Theo Christelis

Photo by Madeleine Morlet

Two years ago I pilgrimaged to a small town in Essex to see a psychic that my hairdresser had recommended, this young mum came so highly recommended that there was a three-month waiting list to see her. That alone made the inconvenient mid-week two-hour train journey worth it. She told me, among other things, that my brother was going to be a great artist. His name is Louis Morlet and this week his debut solo show ‘Behold a figure, Serpentine’ launched at Antonia Marsh’s gallery, Soft Opening. It features clay and latex sculptures, new video work and accompanying soundscape all assembled, in different ways, by foraged materials – call me bias, but clearly the psychic lived up to her hype.

Louis, I understand that your sculptures and the instruments used to create the accompanying soundscape originated from claimed materials such as clay unearthed during night time missions in London parks. Can you tell us about the title of this show and its relationship to the production of these pieces?

The title of this particular show stemmed from the process I used to collect my materials. I’m attracted to hyperbole in titles and want short phrases that jump out. The show’s title, rather then being aimed at the location where I dug up clay, is directed at the very real living spirit who resides there. I imagine myself calling down the road, or through the tunnels that lead back to Hyde Park, and back down into the hole that I’ve dug.

The show is exploring an abstract landscape that has morphed and skewed to represent the idea of a surreal environment; Imagine you are on a razor’s edge in infinite darkness and you are walking along it, staying in the present. Behind you on the razor is the past and in front of you is the future. You are everywhere along that blade at the same time.

I’m not sure where the idea came from, I just did it because I could. It’s hard to see past the front of a functioning city and into its depths, I wanted to break the skin, and in doing so, this show becomes a collaboration between me and my found materials.

By placing the clay sculptures beside your video installation they take on a different layer of meaning, becoming “new relics” or “instant archaeology” for this manipulated and surreal interpretation of space. As such, the video almost becomes instructional, both primitive and refined, as if we could see into a twisted viewing window at the National History Museum. How and why did you decide to include yourself in this element of the show?

There is something magical about the transformative power of a mask. I wanted to lose myself, so I put on a mask and became a character – channelling the shadow of who it is that lies beneath the clay I dug up. I took on this character so completely that I can’t remember being the person in front of the camera. I allowed myself to empty and borrow more than materials from the dark mouth of the city.


Your work appears to be giving the geography of your city a psyche for us to hear and interpret. How do you anticipate your audience to respond to this, particularly within the unique position of Soft Opening’s space?

I want to engage people who have never taken an interest in art. I hope that by including an audio guide, willing listeners will be able to make their own associations about the work. Music has a universal effect where other senses can be more dividing. Soft Opening has a footfall comparable to the most prominent galleries in London while also being a place that connects with individuals who may have never stepped into a gallery before. These are the people I want my work to reach. There is so much transience in a train station, and I hope that if I can’t seduce them one day, maybe I can get them the next.

And what are you working on now?

I have another solo show lined up for November and am thinking about bigger ideas, ideas so large that people might get lost in their grandeur. Also, I haven’t tried to dig in Regent’s Park yet, so maybe I’ll see what I can find there.

Behold a figure, Serpentine‘ runs at London’s Soft Opening until July 29th, 2018.