The inimitable and unconventional designer shared a selection of her favourite books in an energetic talk at YCN.
We were thrilled to host the inimitable and unconventional designer Morag Myerscough on Tuesday night at YCN. Having founded the award-winning Studio Myerscough in 1993, Morag makes 'places from spaces' that are designed to stimulate and make you smile. Her eclectic breadth of work spans a plethora of installations and exhibitions, the conversion of a train into a café, and her colourful, poetry-inspired design of The Movement Café in Greenwich.
In an energetic yet extremely sincere talk, Morag brought in a selection of titles that mapped out her influences and inspirations from the age of 9 onwards. After showing us photographs of the heaving bookshelves at both her home and studio, she went on to explain that the books that mean most to her are the ones she encountered in her formative years. Here are just a few of them:
1. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Drawn to the fact that the protagonist is a girl, Morag ended up played Alice in Wonderland in a stage production at school, thanks in part to her blazing blonde hair. “There’s something about the craziness and the nonsense” she explained, referencing the fact that Lewis Carroll’s experimentation with scale is something that has bled into her own work.
2. Killing For Company: Case of Dennis Nilsen by Brian Masters
In stark contrast to the childlike nature of Alice in Wonderland, the second book was an altogether darker affair. The story of a man called Dennis Nilsen, a murderer from the 1980s who confessed to 15 murders over a 4-year period, Morag told us about her fascination with the idea of seemingly normal people committing terrible acts. “This is a bit of a confession, I’ve never really told anyone about this stuff before,” she said “Don’t read this book though, it’s quite gruesome.”
3. Memphis by Barbara Radice
After coming across this book when she was studying at Central Saint Martins, Memphis had a huge impact on Morag’s relationship with vibrant colour and architectural form. Telling the story of the international group of architects that went by the same name, the book challenged preconceptions of what so-called New Design was based on. “At Central Saint Martins, people weren’t really using colour. This book showed that you could.”
4. Hockney Paints The Stage – Exhibition Catalogue
“The majority of the books in my collection are exhibition catalogues. One of the best ones I ever went to was Hockney Paints The Stage at the Hayward Gallery.” That exhibition inspired her to create spaces that could transport someone to somewhere else. “I’d never been to an exhibition like it,” she explained “Because he’s a painter, his images are very two-dimensional, so his sets carry that same idea through to the three-dimensional.”
5. Bridget Riley: The Stripe Paintings 1961-2012
As part of an article that The Independent were writing regarding the lack of women on English bank notes, Morag was asked who she thought should be put on a £5 note. She chose painter, Bridget Riley, stating “Riley is a greater influence on contemporary art than we give her credit for. She has that quiet, unegotistical Britishness about her.” Shortly after the article was published, Bridget Riley’s assistant called up Morag asking for her postal address. A few days later, a copy of The Stripe Paintings turned up with a personal message from Bridget inscribed on the first page.
6. The Road is Wider Than Long, Roland Penrose
“If I was going to die, or go on a desert island, I would want this book with me” says Morag of Penrose’s book that documented his trip through the Balkans with Lee Miller, a photographer and muse. Written just before World War II broke out, it’s a poetic commentary on what the two experienced on their travels. “It’s a really lovely diary about love and discovery.”
7. Andy Warhol and a host of other art books
Bubbling over her six book limit, we were then taken on a whistle-stop tour of just some of the art books that Morag owns, including Andy Warhol and Jenny Holzer. “I only bought art books at one point. Whenever I travelled I would try to visit as many exhibitions as I could.” She recalled visiting New York’s art bookstore, Printed Matter, which had the most extensive collection of art books she had ever seen. “We went to this shop and it was a feast of things that we didn’t even know existed. London didn’t have anything like it. There was a bookshop in Regent’s Street but that didn’t have very much.”
A huge thank you to Morag for taking the time to come and talk at YCN. Not only was it great to hear the journey of her life through books, it also bred a large amount of discussion afterwards about how to make one’s way in the industry, and the importance of stopping every once in a while to get a solid perspective on where you want to go.
She also mentioned that there is an opportunity for a number of volunteers to help her with her next installation for The Festival of Love at Southbank Centre. If you're interested in spending a few days with Morag, helping her to paint over 150 signs for the installation, you can find out all the details here.
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Location:72 Rivington Street,
London, EC2A 3AY,
Start:13th May, 2014 at 6:30pm
End:13th May, 2014 at 8:00pm