Jenny Morgan’s illustrations are at once a bewitching, curious and utterly intoxicating affair. Marrying rose-tinted, Lynchian imagery of top (and occasionally bottom)-less subjects staring deranged-as-hell frontwards with colour mashups and canvas smudging, she has borne an instantly recognisable art brand. Morgan chatted to a slightly punch-drunk (but no less enamored) Wonderland about the work, ahead of her solo show, “Kith and Kin”, from Friday.

Did you always illustrate? When did you begin to conceptualise your works?

I entered undergrad as an illustration major, but halfway through the program I realised it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I ended up with an illustration degree knowing that I would pursue painting when applying for grad school. I appreciate the technical skills I gained and early on found that conceptual skills are even more valuable and a muscle that I am still strengthening.

Which artists informed your work the most when growing up?

My father is an architect and as a child I would spend afternoons in his office playing with paint and tile samples, creating pleasurable colour combinations and shapes. He always encouraged me to draw and would frame just about everything he was proud of. I was surrounded by creative energy and I’m so thankful for my father’s influence. I also looked at artists like Salvador Dali and Van Gough. Then into college, I fell in love with Jenny Saville.

And currently?

Most recently, I’ve been looking to Glenn Brown and Kaye Donachie for inspiration. I love Lisa Yuskavage for her colour usage and sexuality. Rineke Dijkstra’s photo portraits are incredibly raw and I relate to the awkward deadpan stare she captures from her subjects.

It’s all quite dark and eerie – do you have to get into a certain head space to paint or do you run off inspiration?

I don’t always see the dark and eerie quality that viewers relate back to me. I’m painting what comes naturally and often I’m afraid the pieces are too simple and pretty – I want something challenging to exist in the work.

How and where do you source models from? Are they friends of yours?

My models are always people from my personal life. I found early on that I must have an emotional connection with my subjects or the painting process starts to feel dead and drags on. I photograph everyone myself and often the paintings are informed by conversations I have with these people during photo sessions. It’s all about relationships.

“Kith and Kin” Opens on June 1st at Plus Gallery, Denver, Colorado.
Words: Jack Mills