Just outside of Elgin, lies the beautiful Benedictine Monastery of Pluscarden Abbey, which, from the 4 – 5 April 2020 will hold a new exhibition of strange and unusual illustrations by Brother Daniel Morphy, who is one of its monks in the Visitor Centre.
Br. Daniel was born in Bromley, Kent in 1957 and spent part of his childhood growing up in Greece with his family. He later moved to London and studied for a degree at Camberwell School of Art when, sometime around 1982, he says: “I discovered by chance in a newsagent in Fulham Road a fat volume called ‘The Apex Treasury of Underground Comix/The Best of Bijou Funnies’. Featuring the work of American comic artists such as Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Justin Green, Kim Deitch and many others from the ‘60’s generation. This changed my life; I started taking the idea of an art vocation seriously and thought I would make comics just like them.”
After his artistic studies, Br. Daniel didn’t take up drawing straight away, instead, he moved to Pluscarden Abbey to become a monk, where he has lived there ever since. It was alongside his daily duties in the Abbey that Br. Daniel took up icon painting, following on from which he began to make his extraordinary sculptures, paintings and illustrations. Books and manuscripts have always been central to the life of Monks, who would write and illuminate them by hand before the printing
press was invented. Within the margins of these medieval handmade books, we regularly find the imagery of the bizarre, which includes everything from monkeys playing the bagpipes to human-animal hybrids, weapon-wielding rabbits and mermaids. This strange and irreverent illustrated humour is today known as ‘Marginalia’ and artists themselves are often the greatest admirers of these peculiar and challenging drawings, for they display the mind of a creative when it is at its most inventive and free.
Today, marginalia can be said to have moved out of the margins and into the mainstream, where it proudly constitutes our comic and carton culture. And it is within this tradition that Br. Daniel is producing some of his most interesting and engaging work, with cartoons such as ‘The Fisherman’, ‘The Motorcade of the Lamb’ and ‘Chorus’ which appear to effortlessly fuse the medieval with a contemporary vision.
When asked if he could explain a little about his work and what it is trying to say to us, Br. Daniel replied: “When they ask me what is it? What does it mean? I can only say ‘well, nothing really’. But the work does say something, only I can’t put it into words.” And that is a most interesting answer, as Br. Daniel spends his life at Pluscarden Abbey operating to a daily routine and habit of devotion which has been observed there for 800 years. This practice gives his mind the gift of freedom to contemplate and wonder, to visit places and people which could not possibly exist in our physical world.
Framed & signed prints will go on sale at £45.00 each
Unframed & signed prints will go on sale at £25.00 each.
All proceeds will go the Pluscarden Abbey South Range Project.
- Opening hours: 10:30 – 17:00, every day.
- Visit: www.pluscardenabbey.org
- Phone: 01343 890257
- Email Br. Daniel via the form below:
Travel and directions
The Abbey lies 6 miles west of Elgin and 40 miles east of Inverness. By road, the
simplest routes are from the south the A9 to Inverness and the A96 to Forres or
Elgin, or via the A92 to Aberdeen and the A96 to Elgin. Parking is free in the car
and coach park just outside the main gates.