Internal light Trephina Gorge NT 2020 acrylic on board 45x45cm, Idris Murphy
We mention sometimes, is it often? That our all-time favourite figurative landscape artist is Idris Murphy. We were lucky enough to have him as a painting lecturer many moons ago and have been following his career for a good 20 years now.
Born in 1949, he graduated from National Art School in 1971 and became the Head of Drawing there in 1997. He studied printmaking in the UK and also completed a Doctorate in Creative Arts in 2007. To date, Murphy has held 40 solo exhibitions across Australia and internationally including his survey show I & Thou: Survey Exhibition 1986-2008 which exhibited at King Street Gallery in Sydney, Hazelhurst Regional Art Gallery and Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery NSW.
His latest exhibition titled The Abundance has just landed at King Street Gallery (he is also a finalist in the Hadley’s Art Prize 2021 (Galleries at Hadley’s Orient Hotel, Hobart 31st July -29 August)) and it’s a stunning collection from an artist at the top of his game.
Evening tide 2020 acrylic & collage on aluminium 141x151cm, Idris Murphy
Murphy is a painter’s painter and a huge influence on many, many contemporary landscape artists. For us, he is one of the originals in this genre, and one of only a small handful of non-Aboriginal artists who are able to capture the spirituality of Country through an authentic connection to our encrusted bush-scape. Murphy’s is an insider’s approach to the figurative depiction of the natural elements. What we particularly love about his work is the originality of his stylistic approach and his lack of painterly pretention and gimmicks. He puts the actual work in, painting from the inside out, there’s a sturdiness to his artmaking – we say sturdy but it’s also as light a floating leaf.
Murphy is a magician of colour, an epic colourist that bonds his audience to their emotions through sensory imagery. Recent additions of gold and silver to his palette of deep aqua, moss green, rosella peach and bower-crest blue bring an other-worldly depth. This suite of works sees him paint directly onto aluminium which brings to the work, a shimmery, transcendent effect.
‘Making paintings is kindred to the very slow process of seeding and tilling. For great things to grow you have to wait and trust. Germination is invisible. A complete article of faith.’
View over the dam wall 2021 acrylic on aluminium 116x116cm, Idris Murphy
Intrinsic to Murphy’s artmaking process is his personal and emotional engagement with the environments which surround him, and by extension, his en Plein air practice. Murphy explains that his ‘expeditions’ through the Australian bush ‘offer him enough to last a lifetime’.~ (catalogue Essay, 2017, Gregor Sloss). His work aims to ‘transform an already imagined landscape’ ~ (Sloss, 2017).
Murphy’s practice attempts to mirror Indigenous respect for the Australian landscape, in its value. His paintings conjured in his studio at Kurnell or via expeditions to places like Mutawintji or Fowler’s Gap hold for us the textured luminosity of this deeply connected and ‘feeling’ artist.
Top: Driving past the Ranges 2020 acrylic on board 45x45cm, Idris Murphy. Above: Darkness aflame in full sunshine 2020 acrylic & collage on aluminium 151x141cm, Idris Murphy.
‘Murphy’s trees are swollen, scrubby and anti-heroic. Leaping from a tiny footnote to looming sentinels, they place you in a mythic, deeply interior terrain.’
We urge you to take the time to discover Murphy’s paintings and his formidable ability to deconstruct and reconstruct our precious landscape, to express so wondrously the sounds, scents and mysteries of it, and to capture a sense of place, quietly and beautifully.
8 June – 3 July
King Street Gallery on William, Sydney NSW