Mali Morris returns to Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery with her explosive new exhibition Calling, a collection of abstract paintings from the last 25 years of her career. Housing her first solo exhibition at the old John Bright Street in 1979, the Ikon welcomes the Welsh artist and allows her work to “transform the gallery’s spaces into fields of colour and light.” Morris has received multiple awards for her work, including a recent shortlist for the David and Yuko Juda Foundation Award in 2022. 

Immediately, her geometric, energetic and fluid style transforms the white walls of the Ikon into a colour playground; each painting seemed more complex than the last. The focal point, The Second Stradella, stood out among its equally colourful and layered cousins, but lit up the room with its stark contrast of saturated, playful colours and harsh black and whites. It felt almost too much to take in, and yet I found myself drawn into the sharp, defined lines and brush strokes. Morris creates an unexplainable feeling of stillness while also injecting her work with a seemingly impossible amount of movement. 

Her smaller pieces, such as the simple but stunning Blue Valentines, showcase her precision and deliberate ambiguity and fluidity; the straightforward shapes were precise, yet so free flowing, each brush stroke and scrape showing the layers of paint underneath. Morris marries precision and freedom, with each stroke being perfectly planned but fluid and moving. Highlighting the complexities and the expressive power of the abstract art form, her paintings brighten the space and invite the viewer to move with them. The saturation of the colours creates a playful and pleasant atmosphere in the room, playing on the viewer’s natural curiosity; every painting felt like a puzzle. 

Seeing such bold and unique paintings was refreshing, and the exhibition itself was excellently balanced. Easy to follow and a delight to the eyes, Morris has excelled at creating a colourful and freeing world within the white walls of the Ikon Gallery.