From architecture to anthropology, tool-making to trade routes, my practice takes up aspects of inherently human activity that begin with the hand.
David Murphy’s first solo show in London is a presentation of recent drawings and sculpture. These two elements of his practice are a parallel and complementary activity rather than a developmental progression of two-dimensional study to final realisation in three dimensions.
The graphic language of the drawings rehearses and re-rehearses Murphy’s distinctive mark making – pursuing particular motifs that have the appearance of troughs and ridges or tubes and toruses. Using earthy colours of reds, browns and ochre, the medium for these drawings is casein – a traditional form of milk-based fast-drying paint, which Murphy applies using an almost dry, wide, square-ended brush. He often saturates his paper with layers of colour washes before, during or after the brushed marks have been made and the results can have the appearance of woven fabric or organic form observed in microcosm. At other times they can appear to describe vessels, tracks or furrows in a landscape. He works to the edges of the paper so that the drawing takes full occupancy of the sheet, leaving no border between the work and the world.
Murphy’s two sculptural groups in the show inhabit the real space of the gallery floor. Gathering is the title of two works made of steel wire that has been threaded through specially fabricated rings into tangled coils and then painted in red enamel. The gestural twists and turns have a performative, graphic quality like a finely engineered model of a line drawn in space. Their precise execution, however, is the result of Murphy’s experimentation with and knowledge of the material and its meticulous manufacture by hand. The most recent works in the exhibition are three large freestanding sculptures made from individual sheets of thin aluminium, which have each been subjected to repeated hammer blows over many hours. Murphy is both in control of and directed by his medium and tools; with each strike the metal subtly stretches and warps and it is through this process of hand-working that the material is gradually redefined.
The work at PEER was produced while Murphy was the recipient of a Hackney Studio Award from October 2012 – March 2014 based at Acme Studios’ new-build Matchmakers Wharf artists’ studios on the site of the Lesney Matchbox Toys Factory in Homerton. The 18-month residency included a large rent-free studio, £10,000 bursary and support and mentoring from the partners involved: Acme, PEER and Hackney Council’s Cultural Development Team. The residency was first and foremost an opportunity for David to develop his studio practice, while also exploring the history of the site and the people associated with it.
David Murphy (born 1983, Newcastle upon Tyne) studied at Newcastle College and Glasgow School of Art. Recent exhibitions include: Jerwood Drawing Prize (2010); Almost Island, TAP, Southend on Sea (2011); Anschlüssel, Fruehsorge Contemporary Drawings, Berlin (2011); Aggregate!, E:vent Gallery, London (2011), Young English Sculptors, Fundaziun Not Vital, Switzerland (2012); Zeichnung ohne Zeichnung, Christian Ehrentraut, Berlin (2013); and New Basics, Galleria Monica de Cardenas, Zuoz, Switzerland (2013). He was artist in residence at M4 Gastatelier, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2010), Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, Scotland (2010), and Atelier Concorde, Lisbon, Portugal (2012). He will be artist in residence at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (April-June 2014). He is represented by Galleria Monica de Cardenas in Milan and Zuoz and lives and works in London.