Tools of liberation: how art, music and other people’s skin help Morus Quin feel free

Morus Quin is establishing herself as a force across a number of mediums, and making a splash in the Sydney art scene. Her skills lie in drawing and painting, depicting scenes of humans melting into each other, emblazoned with vivid reds and mellow pastels.

She talks to us about exploring new frontiers, integrating collaboration into her work, and the links between art and music. Mostly, how the future looks for a young female in art, growing into her name and her place.

Morus Quin artist Happy Mag Interview
Indoor Paint, lithograph, charcoal and ink on paper, 2017. All images courtesy of Morus Quin

Recently embracing collaboration, body paint, and printmaking, Morus Quin is prepared to completely unravel her practice in 2018.

HAPPY: Hi Morus! Super excited to chat with you. With an album cover, an exhibition and a future internship under your belt, are you staring down the barrel of a busy 2018?

MORUS: Super nice to be chatting with you too. It’s looking that way as Sydney feels to be inescapably busy. I kind of set 2017 aside to look after my health but I’m feeling really inspired again to launch into art this year, get stuck into some more printmaking too.

HAPPY: Can you tell us the story behind your name?

MORUS: It’s a real name for me. Names carry a lot and a little weight, and rather than something that cements an identity, I prefer to use a name to break it down a little. I’ve recently sent an application to legally change my name to You. We’ll see if its approved, if it is I’ll still go by Morus.

Morus Quin artist Happy Mag Interview
Less, charcoal, house paint and ink on canvas, 2017

HAPPY: When did you first realise that you wanted to carve out a career as an artist?

MORUS: When I reluctantly dropped my dreams of becoming a swimmer, haha. I used to wear running shoes, high sport socks and a swimming uniform around most places I’d go, up until I was 18. I had an interest in art but it was kind of dormant and unexpressed under all the training.

It was a funny flip that happened pretty quickly. I think the constant in the shift was pursuing something I was just as passionate about, and that passion ended up being art.

Morus Quin artist Happy Mag Interview
Momentum Is Faster Than Me, house paint, acrylic paint, nail polish and aerosol on canvas, 2017

HAPPY: D you have a particular favourite medium, or one that allows you to express yourself the most effectively?

MORUS: I have such different experiences with each medium, they cross over yet are so distinct so it’s hard to compare them. I feel like there are a lot of tangents of myself to express so each medium provides a different avenue for all nooks of me, like segments of the same orange I suppose. I think I would feel funnelled if it was contained within just one medium.

The creativity aspect is unbound but pragmatism does set limits. The main difference is more in accessibility, tools, costs and set up. Drawing and painting are definitely some of the easiest to dive right into.

Morus Quin artist Happy Mag Interview
Wind Tunnel, ink and ballpoint pen, 2017

HAPPY: You are also a body painter. How is the experience different when you are confronted with skin rather than a canvas?

MORUS: Yeah, it’s mostly just a fun gig I’ve been on board with since mid last year. It was my partner in both crime and performance art, Tess Vincent, who got me into it. It’s for a queer event called Unicorns held in Melbourne and Sydney, it’s super fun and liberated. To their credit they’ve really made a space for people to feel open and comfortable with themselves in.

As the body painter, you get to engage with people much more directly. Skin and the people behind the skin are so much more responsive than a canvas. In maybe a similar way that we use clothes to express ourselves with, body paint has a similar effect only it doesn’t cover the body in the same way, it tends to liberate it.

Morus Quin artist Happy Mag Interview
Nnarcotic, charcoal, ballpoint pen, ink, and pastel on paper, 2017

HAPPY: Art is an infamously singular activity. How did your collaboration with Tess shape your views about how art can be a collective experience?

MORUS: Definitely, it really confirmed a lot of curiosities I had about collaboration. Being surrounded by a lot of music and a lot of music making opened the window up from the lone studio practice to view the collaborative relationships that exists so routinely in music. I was watching music get made with this powerful tool of collaboration that felt fairly absent in art.

Through it all I think some of the processes of music-making fused in with the way we now collaborate. It really let go of the individual identity that fixates on a singular way of thinking and singular identity. I feel strengthened by the whole thing, to work with someone so closely and on something as personal as an art practice is fulfilling on a lot of levels.

Morus Quin artist Happy Mag Interview
Scan 23, ballpoint pen on paper, 2017

HAPPY: How did you feel when you were selected for the National Art School’s drawing week internship?

MORUS: We were so stoked. It came off the back of a pretty hectic year for Tess and I. We were grinding out a confidence to pull off this awkward and unfamiliar territory of performance in amongst the whirlwind of life. It demanded such a direct engagement with our bodies and left no indirectness to hide under.

It ended up purging more insecurity from within then imagined. At the time it felt like an affliction but now it’s just another tool to liberate and think with. I think those nourishing lessons will follow through and into our upcoming internship.

Morus Quin artist Happy Mag Interview king colour lost my cool
Lost My Cool, single cover for King Colour, 2017

HAPPY: Your album cover for King Colour’s single Lost My Cool is sublime. Did it deepen your artistic process, adding music to it?

MORUS: Oh thank you! For sure, I think art and music and all art forms really, bring us along a route that allows us to travel inward. So to bring the two together as companions, it really offers another perspective and widens our expeditions inward.

Working within music-based design and more specifically alongside King Colour to create the cover for Lost My Cool is a really nice process of bringing the inner feelings I experience from their music and carrying it through to its next incarnation. In general a lot of breakthroughs in my drawing have come from responding to friends jamming, it’s no doubt one of my favourite times to draw.

Pressing, acrylic paint on paper, 2016

HAPPY: Your Instagram page is a great platform for you to share your various pursuits. Do you find that social media plays a part in how you are being noticed, and gaining traction?

MORUS: Hmm yeah, that’s a topical issue. It’s a super interesting one and so is my relationship with it. It’s been a surprisingly useful tool for me that has really exposed me to a lot of opportunities. I do have a lot of qualms with it though. As a dual system of viewing and sharing, the way art is exposed to public opinion can really sway the type of art that’s being created. I think the constant stream of feedback can override an artist’s sureness in their creative pursuits unless it’s really solidified within them.

It does inspire a lot of people and when the information posted and available on Instagram translates to real-life engagement I think it becomes beneficial too. I mostly try and have a no frills relationship with Instagram, upload stuff and jump back off. Maybe I’ll upload a screenshot of this question, haha.

Formed, still two channel film of performance, 2017

HAPPY: As a young female in art, are you conscious of having to work harder, à la Guerilla Girls, or are you focused on letting your art speak for itself?

MORUS: The Guerrilla Girls have of course done some powerful work. It has really contributed to the ability female artists now have to pursue the latter route. I guess in terms of assertively pushing my art forward, the work I create that is more politically active is put forth with a more of an assertive motion, more consciously aimed into the public sphere.

With my other stuff I definitely prefer to let it to speak for itself. There are a lot of strings attached with the whole pushing art forward situation. Luckily I haven’t run into much that is gender based, more just the system of art in general.

Morus Quin artist Happy Mag Interview
Nowhere to Sit, ink, charcoal, acrylic and oil paint on canvas

HAPPY: Where will Morus Quin be in five years?

MORUS: Maybe opting out of art for financial stability, haha! No, hopefully not. I hope of course to still be making art more actively and broadly. My painting and drawing practice are feeling solidified and I hope to expand the groundwork of that, I’ve got a lot of familiarising with printmaking and performance to do, so I’m excited to see what unravels over the years.

There also are some excellent historians/researchers/writers, such as Bruce Pascoe, Bill Gammage and Paul Memmot, who have done some really important work looking at Indigenous history and Indigenous architecture. I would be super interested in following suit.


Follow Morus Quin’s work on Facebook and Instagram.