Adam Murray is a renowned local artist, whose works take shape through layers and utilising a range of different mediums…
How and when did you become interested in art?
I’ve drawn since I can remember and was always doodling at school. I remember being home, sick, from school, and my aunty bought me a “how to draw cartoon characters” book, so early it was known that I liked to draw.
I used to draw Snoopy all the time around this age, and attempts at Mickey Mouse, Speedy Gonzales, and the Road Runner, but Snoopy and the Peanuts characters were simpler drawings and easier for me to copy. I was crazy about cartoons. All Walt Disney and Looney tunes, Sylvester and Tweety Bird, Foghorn Leghorn, Bugs Bunny, and then later on, Inspector Gadget, Danger Mouse, and early manga like Battle of the Planets and Astro Boy. ABC cartoons in the afternoon, and comic strips, like Ginger Meggs, Footrot Flats, and Modesty Blaise.
I also remember on family drives, staring out the car window at the shopfront signage. This was around late ‘70s early ‘80s, when sign writing was hand painted. The spacing and fluid flow naturally from the hand amazed me. That was the first job I wanted, a sign writer, but by the time I left school, signs had become stickers and I didn’t see the point in doing that – the end of another tradition. There’s nothing like hand made; it’s like the basis of what has become graffiti – flow within the moment. Like family owned fruit and veg stores, with ticket writing price tags. Navel oranges 69c/kg. I like seeing that. Keeping a bit of old school tradition.
What do you recall as being your earliest creative memories?
I think I went through a long copying stage – something I now realise was important. And I still copy as a practice, banking pictures in the mind, a way of digesting something you find appealing for later reference. But I’ve copied cartoons and skateboard art, tattoo art. I remember when the Red Hot Chili Peppers got huge and their tattoos were cool and I used to copy their tattoos from the album sleeve, and from there, I got right into perfect tribal and Polynesian tattoo design. And setting my own rules as to what I thought had flow and movement, because there was a lot of terrible tribal design around. It felt natural, because I was obsessed with being neat. Clean, hard edge and symmetry. And even though that was 20 years ago, I think a bit of this early creativeness still appears in my art today. Fine, organic, linear shapes and directions.
Tell me about the concept behind your art; where do you draw your inspiration from?
Lately I’ve been experimenting with mark making as content for the head and figure, sketching colourful marks with a range of materials and constantly playing with contrast and trying a balance between fine and abstract.
Sometimes it will appear in my head, a colour or group of colours will appear, or a blurry vision of a composition. Like now I can see a mass of pale pink, with small sharp green markings, so if I was about to start a painting, I would try that, as a start, or a background. My process runs from finding a photo of a face or body, usually from Instagram or Internet. The photos I save for future drawings have certain angles or contrasts that I find interesting and look fun to draw and experiment with. The first pass or drawing will be closer to real, then from there I’ll stretch and/or exaggerate certain areas. And by the time I’m ready to paint, I’ll have a selection of different drawings and subjects to combine – like a collage, in a way. Some parts abstract, some parts real. Contrasting styles to build one image. An exploration of portraiture and the figure.
What medium do you most like to work with?
I think my practice is drawing. Even my paintings are drawings. So anything from graphite to acrylic, anything I can draw and make marks with, quickly. Lately, watercolour pencils, felt pens, paint pens. I love paint pens that are running out, ‘cause you can get a faint, hopeless mark. Like scumbling with paint … Just touching the surface and letting the under-process come through and be seen, creating layers. I love contrast of application and approach. So materials that help me show between blurred colour transparencies and fine detailed drawings. More layers.
Where is your space, and what feelings do you get when you enter your studio?
My studio is luckily at home – and just got bigger; it’s exciting. I have plans for bigger pieces and plans for a continuous painting on ply wood panels, inspired by Alchemy by Brett Whiteley, one of my favourite paintings. A lot of late nights this coming winter. I am lucky. I get to do this every day; I’m living my dream. I have the space, time, and freedom to dive into what I love doing: practicing art.
A lot of your work revolves around the female figure. What are your inspirations?
The female figure is amazing, wonderful. Curves like landscapes. And being heterosexual, it’s a constant wonder, a fun and interesting study/subject. One of my drawing teachers said, “Look at the female figure like a Lloyd Rees landscape”. I love that. Laid out rolling hills with depth. For the past 4-5 years I had moved away from the figure and focused on the head, combinations of portrait and profile, stretching and distorting, multiplying and trying to show movement. But in the last year, I’ve been combining the head and figure. Trying collage as a drawing process, of different parts of different girls, within the one drawing, to combine and design a concocted person – like a female version of a good looking Frankenstein. Another layering, multiplying process, that opts to show movement.
Your work has a profound effect on people. Describe the techniques you use and how you have developed as an artist from your earlier days with the brush?
When I first started painting, I hated the look of brush strokes and would use bits of chopped up plastic rulers and wood to scrape the paint onto the canvas and rub with my fingers to blend the colours. I still do this, but have grown open to any material and application – less personal rules and corners and more endless options and possibilities.
I use a lot of water through the process, mixing materials as washes of acrylic, ink and water colour. Transparencies, layering and building, rubbing wet into wet, for unknown results. You can put a colour down and it can be less dominant and just touch on the overall painting. Also constant sketching, testing and searching. From the drawing to the painting, line is dominant. Broken, weighted, guided, loose, controlled, suggestive lines, that can act as vibrations. And always attempting contrast – contrast of colour, light and shade, and a contrast of application. Parts being brief and lazy to other parts being closer to real, and informative. My art is a contrast between controlled mess and broken design. I think it’s more about what the painting needs, as opposed to what you want.
What are your ambitions?
To maintain this drive to practice. I hope this is just the start. I want the next 20 – 30 years to be my most progressive and productive years.
I’d like to live and work overseas. Germany, USA, and I really want to see Spain, an art capital of the world, and Germany has become a street art capital of the world, that interests me. I want to paint big walls and make videos and T-shirts and prints and put out books. And just keep having fun, like a kid … surf, art and music. Simple.
Where can people see examples of your work, or contact you if they’d like more information?
I post everything on Instagram under AdamMurrayArt. And I have some paintings around town, at Sunset gallery. Blackfish coffee, Blue Water restaurant, the bistro at Port Panthers, a joint mural with Simon Luxton at Port Macquarie High School, and a painting of Ahab and Moby Dick at the Pier.
And my home studio is full of art if anyone would like to have a look; you can contact me email@example.com or Adam Murray on Facebook.
This article was from issue 116 of Greater Port Macquarie Focus.