David Murphy


April 25, 2023 - June 16, 2023


By scratching onto painted gesso in works, Murphy is conjuring a visual illusion. The viewer can see depth, ridges, perhaps mountain ranges, but look more closely and it is a flat two-dimensional board. The ridges and curved lines of the series of ‘Long Ending’ paintings appear and re-appear in the work, alongside motifs such as tents, tiles, tracks, threads, ribbons, intercepting and merging lines. These motifs are what David calls his ‘handwriting’, translated across materials and physical boundaries.                                Jo Baring (2021)

PATERSON ZEVI is delighted to present David Murphy: Paintings, a survey of works by the British artist which marks the fourth collaboration between Murphy and the gallery. The exhibition represents the first occasion which Murphy’s paintings on wooden board – many of which bear the title of Long Ending – have been shown collectively. On this occasion, the artist has handpicked paintings which showcase the development of this series; demonstrating how these paintings have evolved from 2015 to today.

Murphy’s paintings have a technique honed and adapted over the last eight years. The wooden panels, sanded and treated, are primed with layers of gesso, prepared to an ancient recipe mentioned in Giorgio Vasari’s famous ‘Lives of the Artists,’ written in the mid 16th Century and popularised by artists including Cimabue and Cenino Cennini in their Florentine paintings. The combination of rabbits skin glue, french chalk and water is applied in multiple layers, subsequently sanded down to create a perfect, silky white surface. Preparation for these paintings is extremely important for Murphy – it can represent many months of labour and is a deeply contemplative act. Once this has been completed, numerous layers of casein, a fine, milk-based pigment, are washed over the gessoed board. Applied using wide brushes with very little paint, Murphy builds up an illusion of woven textures, as if cloth has been draped over these wooden panels. Faint but visible checkerboards of colour, whilst actually signifying the limits of Murphy’s brush span across the panels, reflects his playful relationship with the boundaries between two- and three-dimensional surfaces. In the final stage of his process, Murphy scratches into these layers using a fine etching needle and handmade, dressmaker’s rulers. Gradually, individual white lines run build up across the boards, only being interrupted by the inclusion of dips and, in later paintings, gently curving striations. What was once concealed – beneath many layers of gesso and paint – is now revealed to the viewer.

Murphy’s Long Ending paintings are filled with both illusions and paradoxes. The most recent development of this series shown here - the Veiled paintings - are perhaps the most extreme manipulations of textile language, or as Jo Baring writes in her essay, the artist ‘pushing things to the brink of what they can withstand.’ Here, the etching marks weave in and out of focus against Murphy’s bold palette, creating an illusion of a veil more akin to Northern Renaissance painting than an artist of today. It is also true that whilst this technique has deep roots in the Italian Renaissance, Murphy’s paintings also speak the geometric, pared-down language of Minimalism, particularly the line-based work of artists such as Sol LeWitt and Agnes Martin. As such, the Long Ending and Veiled painting look both to the past and the present, yet remain highly original and sophisticated works.

This timelessness encapsulates Murphy’s practice; he moves naturally  between painting and sculpture and with apparent ease has an innate ability for scaling up or down. Near to the PATERSON ZEVI space is the artist’s permanent sculptural installation Long Ending for Oxford House, a seven-metre-high sculpture which sits upon a prominent office building façade on London’s Oxford Street. Here, the careful undulations of the Long Ending paintings are transformed into Italian Grigio Alpi stone, whose specs of colour echo Murphy’s carefully considered palette in the paintings now on display. The light that plays an important part in the viewer’s experience of this sculpture is also inherent within the paintings; the latest piece from the studio to be included, Long Ending (Evening Fade) (2023) shows a delicate attention to the changing light of day as the colour gently transforms from dusky red to purple.

Seen in their entirety, the works within this exhibition tell a story of an artist fascinated by form, space, perception and meaning. Carefully considered and with a dedication to pushing against the limits of his own language, David Murphy: Paintings is a celebration of this meticulously process-driven, mysteriously abstract and evocative body of work.

David Murphy (b.1983, Newcastle Upon Tyne) studied at the Glasgow School of Art (2006) and currently lives and works in London. He is the recipient of the Kenneth Armitage Foundation Fellowship, London (2015-2017), completed a residency with the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2014), and was shortlisted for the John Moores Painting Prize (2016) and the Jerwood Drawing Prize (2017). Recent exhibitions include New Art Centre, Roche Court, Wiltshire (2020); Bartha Contemporary, London (2020); Stephane Simoens Fine Art, Belgium (2021 and 2020); Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2019); ALMA ZEVI Venice, Italy (2019); British Council, Cairo (2016); Galleria Monica de Cardenas, Milan (2015); New Arts Centre, Roche Court, Wiltshire (2016), PEER, London (2014).

Murphy has worked on large-scale commissions for the National Trust, UK (2020); The Dales Museum, UK (2016); Edinburgh Sculpture Workshops UK (2015) and The Blanket at the Piece Hall in Halifax, UK (2019). Recently unveiled projects include a permanent new installation for Oxford House, Oxford Street, London (with Great Portland Estates) and the Harlow Arts Trust, Essex. He was also recently included in a three artist exhibition at Galerie Isa, Mumbai and premiered new work in the Contemporary Sculpture Fulmer Sculpture Park, which ran until Autumn 2022. He was recently included in LUMA, a group exhibition opening in East London (February 2023).

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