I have just realised that I never posted photos of my last solo show Lavish Entropy with Delphian Gallery, so here they are below.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow Delphian Gallery team for everything. Andrew Salgado for writing the amazing catalogue text. Old Blue Last Beer for supplying the drinks for the opening party. And everyone else who visited, bought works, or blogged about the show.
Hector Campbell (HC): Delphian Gallery has existed in one manifestation or another since 2013’s ‘Group Collective are Kunsts’ exhibition, could you explain how the gallery first came about? And how it has subsequently evolved into its current model?
Benjamin Murphy (BM): My co-director (photographer Nick JS Thompson) and I have been working together for a number of years after we met when he wrote an article about me in a magazine he used to manage. I went on to write for the magazine, and we both started co-curating one another’s shows. We both developed a deep love of, and interest in, the art of curation, and so decided to curate our first show in my old studio. It has been a real labour of love for us, which has built gradually into what Delphian is now – a peripatetic style gallery that takes the championing of exciting, emerging art as its key aim.
HC: Delphian, meaning ‘Obscurely Prophetic,’ derives from the Greek mythological oracle at Delphi. What was the rationale behind choosing ‘Delphian’, and how does it’s meaning underpin the gallery’s vision?
BM: Well firstly, we wanted something that was Googleable, as well as something less vapid than just both of our surnames. We decided upon Delphian because it is vague enough to not be too constrictive in what we can show, as well as being something with its own character. “Obscurely Prophetic” is, in a concise two-word phrase, one which we believe all the best art accomplishes. We believe that the most successful and thought-provoking work is informative, but in a non-didactic way.
HC: As an artist-run gallery, what advantages or insights does this offer you, as opposed to more traditional gallerist or art dealers?
BM: I think we understand the position of the artist more than a lot of gallerists or curators do, as we are both artists in our own right. This gives us a unique insight into both sides of the coin in terms of how a show is put together and run, from the artwork production point, up until the curation of a show and the sale of an artwork.
As well as this, we try to curate cohesive shows that could be read as a single artwork in their own right. The way we curate is quite experimental, as we believe there is nothing less interesting (or damaging to the artworks themselves), as a show in which all of the artworks are hung at eye-level around the gallery. These types of shows often encourage people to stand in the middle of the room and just rotate themselves 360 degrees, they leave feeling like they have seen all of the artworks – when of course they often haven’t. We want to curate shows that are essentially immersive artworks in themselves, that are ethereal and only exist in the moment, until the heterogeneous works are divided up again and are either sold or sent back to the artists. We believe that curation is an art form in itself, and it is this philosophy which guides how we curate.
BM: We try to show a diverse range of works that are entirely unique, whilst highlighting possible underlying connections or similarities, as well as playing with ways in which differing styles contrast. We spend a lot of time going to shows, as well as countless hours on social media, scrolling through things like Instagram looking for new talent. We also run a separate Instagram account called @Daily_Contemporary_Art, which is great for discovering new artists. Every week a new artist has control of the account and shares their favourite living artists, and we find that it is often the student artists that share the most exciting work.
HC: You also had your most recent solo exhibition, Lavish Entropy, at the gallery earlier this year. How did this experience compare to your previous shows, acting as not only the artist but also the gallerist/curator?
BM: It was great, I often take a quite hands-on approach to the curation of my own shows anyway (often aided by Nick), so in that sense, this was no different. I’d recommend every artist do this at least once in your career, as when you have full creative control over something you can be as wild and as experimental as you like without anyone trying to curtail your vision. Don’t get me wrong – the curatorial teams at galleries are often incredibly helpful and teach me things about my own work that I wouldn’t have realised otherwise, but it can be incredibly freeing having absolutely no constraints sometimes. This kind of thing is great, and you are able to take bigger risks than usual, and this teaches you what does and doesn’t work in a way that you wouldn’t have been able to see without this freedom.
HC: This year the gallery ran your inaugural Open Call submission exhibition, why did you want to undertake this competition? And what did you learn from this first iteration?
BM: It was so great, and through it we discovered so much great art we wouldn’t have done if it weren’t for the open call. We wanted to make it as easy as possible to submit, so as to get the most submissions possible. We didn’t charge for entry, and our good friends at theprintspace printed and mounted it all for us, so there was no cost to the artists. This also meant that, as the artists only had to send us a jpeg, artists from all over the world could submit and not have to worry about shipping or insuring their work. We received over 8000 submissions in total and were awestruck by the diversity of it. There are many artists who we would have loved to have included but couldn’t because of size and space constraints. As well as Florence Hutchings, another of our favourite artists Bertrand Fournier entered, whom we hope to present a solo show with next year.
HC: For your latest exhibition, Florence Hutchings, who won the aforementioned Open Call competition, presents her debut solo show, Seating Arrangements. How important is it for you to champion young artists such as Florence?
Florence Hutchings – Secular Throne
BM: Florence is great, she has done so incredibly well at such a young age and yet still doesn’t really seem phased by it all. She is very down-to-earth, which is nice to see from someone who is already reaching levels of success that most artists can only dream of.
We aim to discover and support young, emerging artists because we feel this is where the most exciting and unique work is coming from. We are in a position to be able to help out the careers of these young artists like people did for us when we first started showing, so it is incredibly rewarding in that respect.
We get to nurture this often raw and unbridled talent early on in an artist’s career, and look forward to the time when artists like Florence outgrow us and sign with Gagosian – for it will happen, especially in her case.
To see the whole thing on Arrested Motion, click this LINK.
My second exhibition of the year at The Saatchi Gallery was the Cash Is King show, in which all of the artists drew on to existing currency. the show finished at the end of September, and I will be back there for another show in early December.
My last show was as part of Jealous Needs You, which was the one directly before this one.
On the 18th of October I will be doing this masterclass at West London Art Factory, I rarely do this kind of thing (in fact this is the first one open to the public that I have ever done), so if you’d like to attend please get tickets via the link at the bottom of the page.
I will begin with a short talk, and then will take you through the process of how I make my works, by showing and explaining, and then you will be free to create your own. I will be around to mentor you as you create the works, and all materials will be provided, as well as refreshments.
West London Art Factory invites you to spend an evening with accredited artist Benjamin Murphy, learning to create your own artwork using electrical tape alone. This unique medium is one that makes Benjamin’s work instantly recognisable, as well as its monochromatic themes and figurative subjects. The masterclass offers you an opportunity to watch Benjamin’s process of creating his work and learn these techniques first hand, working with Benjamin to create your own unique piece. The class will begin with a welcome, followed by a demonstration by Benjamin then an opportunity for you to create your own work, guided by Benjamin, using a number of colours and tapes available, on an A3 perspex sheet. The result will be an original piece of art for you to take home. No prior experience is needed, all levels are welcome and all material is provided. Drinks and refreshments will be available.
Please note, this class has limited spaces so be sure to secure your place!!
During the workshop, you’ll learn to make works like these.
I am very excited to announce that I am co-curating the first ever solo show of one of my favourite artists – Florence Hutchings, with Delphian Gallery.
She is still studying, and despite this has already been awarded the Lynn Painter-Stainers prize, along with winning the Delphian Open Call competition earlier in the year. She also has a few exciting shows coming up at The Saatchi Gallery.
The private view opens on the 6th of September, more information can be found via the Facebook event
I’m very excited to announce that this new screen print is going to be exhibited at The Saatchi Gallery from the 31st of July until the 31st of August.
It is of one of my favourite tape drawings to date, which sold at my most recent solo show with Delphian Gallery.
3 Colour Screenprint on Somerset Satin 300gsm Paper
Edition of 36
55cm x 75cm
Hand signed and stamped.
Printed by the amazing Jealous Gallery.
The original piece has sold, and it is the piece that I still get the most enquiries about. For this reason, I’m expecting the print to be popular, and will be holding a few back for release later on in the year.
I have a few available for purchase, which can be found [HERE]
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