I recently asked one of my favourite artists (+friend, collaborator, inspiration) Andrew Salgado to write a short text about my work to include in the catalogue for my upcoming solo show. As is always the case with Salgado, he went above and beyond expectations. I was expecting a few sentences at most, and so was completely dumbfounded by what I got back. I think it’s safe to say he understands both me, and my work, better than I do. So if you would like a great insight into my work have a little read of what he wrote, which I have pasted below. I love it so much.
Huge thanks to Salgado – go and buy his work from Beers Contemporary HERE!
Benjamin Murphy is a Romantic – he strolls in wearing all black, of slight stature, looking appropriately broody with skeleton rings on each finger that he’s made himself and decked out in stylized tattoos – most of which he’s designed (and also probably executed upon) himself. He’s the embodiment of his own work; where art-meets-life-meets-art; probably a Kafka novel somewhere in his bag and a journal full of sketches and notes. He’s a bit like I imagine the old Romantic poets, literal manifestations of the very subjects of their poetry – the artist, in beautiful torment, unable to function properly as the very obsess to create somehow overwhelms them. A quick Google search reveals the tenets of Romanticism – the tenets I have long forgotten from my own time in art school – and they reveal themselves like a checklist of Murphy’s work: belief in the individual; reverence of nature; interest in the supernatural or gothic; interest in the past; nostalgic world-view. All of these, I would argue, form the foundations of Murphy’s work.
Over the course of the past few years, Murphy’s artistic practice (well, truthfully it has become something of an oeuvre, hasn’t it?) has grown to encompass his trademark ‘black-electrical-tape’ drawings; traditional pen-and-ink drawing; stitching (by hand, laborious and pain-staking); painting; prose; poetry; and even playwriting. I’m sure he also must play a musical instrument or two, and probably has a number of other tricks up his sleeve, like the ‘five finger knife game’ (aka stabscotch) and must be brewing a bathtub full of gin somewhere. But the point is, this is a multifaceted talent who choses to focus his art on an aesthetic and ethos that is so well-rounded and thought-out that many artists working a lifetime would be jealous of. While his work has grown in terms of technique – which was already rather exceptional a few years back – what one sees now is an artist fully realizing his creative potential. There is never a summit for him, and I often talk to Murphy (well, Ben, to me when we aren’t being professional) and while I’m watching Come Dine with Me after a day in studio, he’s already done 8 hours of tape-drawings and has since been underlining prose in Baudelaire or Camus. What this obsession with work has created is now visually represented in these impeccably and profoundly executed tape-drawings: it is most evident in the triple-tier glass works, where ghostly shadows from layers of intricately detailed surfaces bounce and reflect upon each other. One work, Ghost (2018), depicts an undressing female before a slew of Modernist paintings – and lace curtains draping before a patterned floor, another pattern here, the fronds of a Monstera plant in the back. If you consider the actual work and intensity of mark-making, it’s astounding. When we remind ourselves that this work is executed in tape, not pen-and-ink, it is simply a gobsmacking display of talent. But again, I reiterate the idea that this sort of exhibition comes after years of practice – of obsessive focus on one thing, and the elaboration of a technique he has basically trademarked as his own.
Like many works in the exhibition, the aforementioned piece is characteristic of a Murphy work but also characteristic of the tenets of Romanticism: firstly, imagine Murphy at work, and thus we have the solitary pursuit of an artist, working to depict the solitary moment of a character, usually in a decadently overgrown Victorian setting, usually depicted as a memento-mori or vanitas*, viewed upon in her private moments with a type of gentle reverie. There’s a subtle nod to Degas, with the undressing solitary beauties; but also Matisse, when he’s looking at interiors or plants or even patterns; and even a slight nod to punk-rock, Shakespeare, or even Tarantino: knifes, feathers, needles, that sort of thing. But what I love about Murphy’s work is its inherent sweetness; given its unflinching monochromatism and his love of Nihilist literature, I think the easy route would be to slip into cynicism. But there’s such an adoration of his own craft and the sensuous care of his own materiality that the work carries with it an inherent delicacy, a kind of grace wound into its very make-up, like a type of macabre but beautiful poetry in itself.
I look forward to the day we can sit in a theatre, watching Murphy’s debut play upon stage, with the set-design that he’s created, all scored to music he wrote. It will be an atmospheric, theatrically sombre event, dimly lit, set to candle light. A bit of a Cabinet of Doctor Caligari vibe, I’m sure. So while the lights are on, spend some time with these works, consider the patience and care it would take to execute even just a small one. With those thin carefully delineated lines marking each individual strand of hair, or the articulated stigma of a flower, or the undulations of lace. Just as the Romantic finds himself lost in his own rapturous creation, these are marks that describe countless hours of obsession, and as this young career continues to evolve, one can only imagine how its varying facets will continue to intermingle into a further fully-realised beast.
*A vanitas is a symbolic work of art showing the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death, often contrasting symbols of wealth and symbols of ephemerality and death. Wikipedia
Lavish Entropy opens on Tuesday the 10th of July at Delphian Gallery – 67 York Street London W1H 1QB
My fifth solo show LAVISH ENTROPY opens on the 10th of July
Here is some information from the press release.
British contemporary artist Benjamin Murphy opens his brand new exhibition, Lavish Entropy at Delphian Gallery in July 2018. His work is renowned for its intricate detail included in his monochromatic, figurative, line-drawings in the unusual medium of electrical tape.
He will be exhibiting a new body of his signature tape drawings including some never seen before 3D works alongside more diverse parts of his practice including hand stitched pieces and ceramics.
Much of the work is made in Murphy’s signature style, that of painting using only black electrical tape on glass. For the past year, Murphy has been working on some new 3D tape paintings, by creating the images on three separate panes of glass, and housing them all within one frame, with a gap in between each. When the viewer moves around the works, a parallax shift effect gives the works depth. This show will bring together the diverse parts of his practice, including some of his hand-stitched paper drawings alongside his more typical tape paintings. Benjamin has also been experimenting with ceramics, and the disordered naivety of these contrasts perfectly with the meticulous preciseness of his other works.
The work is inspired by the classic literature Murphy read as research for his first play Flowering Desolation, completed in early 2018. French Naturalism and Literary Modernism are major influences, with the works of Marcel Proust playing an especially important part. The exhibition opens on what would have been Proust’s 147th birthday.
As well as his other works, Lavish Entropy will include a single page from Flowering Desolation, which has never been seen by the public.
Quickly following the close of Lavish Entropy, Murphy will be exhibiting at The Saatchi Gallery for a second time, showing a screenprint of one of the key pieces in Lavish Entropy.
I’m very happy to announce that I’ve been invited to judge this year’s London Loop art prize.
The other judges include Turner Prize winner Joe Halligan (as part of Assemble), singer Aluna George, and Lee Bofkin. Prizes include a trip to NYC and £10k for the overall winner, so I hope you all got your entries in!
I’ll be uploading photos of the awards party to my Instagram so make sure to follow me there – @benjaminmuphy_