'Imagination will take you everywhere'
The World is Murphy’s Oyster
The artist Ian Murphy is constantly on the lookout for his next artistic challenge. He’s travelled the world in search of one simple thing; to discover the next masterpiece to create, forever pushing the creative boundaries. The day I talk to him he has just returned from Thailand; despite heavy jetlag his enthusiasm for the passion that has gripped him since childhood is clear for all to see. His paintings depict the great variety of cultures he has experienced; he’s painted amber doorways in Morocco, grey canals in Venice, and sacred temples in China. But one aspect which remains constant in Murphy’s artwork throughout these different locations is his love of architecture. His latest exhibition ‘Fragments’ illustrates close up details of architecture with paintings of intricate ironwork, a stone pillar, and a grand door knocker, all of which give a subtle indication of the place they belong to. This brief snap shot of an environment creates an air of mystery as the whole scene is not revealed; thus stimulating the viewer into a wild guessing game trying to uncover the location of the particular details.
When asked about the country which inspires his artwork the most, Ian Murphy struggled to pick one as all his ventures are “invigorating”, however the place that absorbed him the most was China. He went on to say that China was so diverse, historically interesting and he enjoyed meeting the people and experiencing the culture. China’s influence on Murphy has been invaluable and he has visited it regularly for the last 15 years. As well as China, Venice has also been particularly engrossing for Murphy, which is obvious in his large amount of Venetian architecture paintings. His fascination with the ‘floating city’ stemmed from the conjunction of an urban area steeped in history with the water as he likes the ambiguity of the location. This is why Murphy has returned to Venice again and again.
Murphy finds the most rewarding part of the painting process is not the exhibition or selling stage but the actual production of the painting itself. He relishes the challenge of creating something special and unique. Murphy normally works on six or seven of his paintings in one day due to the wet nature of the oil paints he utilises. Not only is Murphy an artist but he is also involved with many educational schemes (he regularly accompanies Chenderit Sixth form’s annual art residential trip, which is either to Barcelona or Venice – the latter location means Murphy is the ‘go-to’ expert), he tells me this is because he wants to share his skills with students to benefit their art education. He has developed a range of strategies to communicate with a wide age range to ensure that everyone understands how he creates his artwork. Another impressive marketing tool Murphy uses is his online business which enables him to reach a worldwide audience as he sells a lot of work oversees. An important element of his website is his online tutorials which enables him to teach aspiring young artists his methods of working. His words of wisdom for an aspiring artist? Be truthful to yourself, have a good work ethic, be persevering, and just go for it! Believe that you have a passion for succeeding in whatever you set out to do.
However Murphy remembers as a young lad a common question he was always asked: is being an artist a worthwhile career? He agrees that there isn’t a guarantee of an income but he says that you’ve just got to go with who you are and what you want to be. And that is exactly what he did as he was very single minded about wanting to become an artist. Murphy comes to life as he describes the ‘good old days’ studying painting and printmaking at Sheffield College of Art. He had a “great studio space” with plenty of space, and the college also gave him easy access to the environments he loved to draw. The industrial landscape of Sheffield was Murphy’s artistic playground; he enjoyed depicting the rough, harsh, and derelict features of the industrialised city. Another source of material came from the scenic quality and natural beauty of the nearby Peak District. Murphy gained a First in his painting and printmaking degree which he earned with hard work, determination, and enthusiasm for jumping into every possible opportunity.
Murphy layers different textures when he is painting; particularly interesting is his use of text within his work. He layers newspaper under the surface to achieve an authentic feel or uses a laser cutter to create words with a precise edge. The words add another layer of narration to the visual language of the painting; thus expressing the culture that is embedded in the location of the image and engrossing the viewer with each individual story. Murphy describes the process of finding text as like an archaeological dig for the history and background information of an area. He believes that each painting has a life of their own; Murphy simply goes with the flow and lets the painting take him on a journey.