Saturday, February 14, 2009

Interview with Collin Murphy

Photos from Collin Murphy's studio

I'm always curious about other artist's art studios as well as their process. So I've picked a few abstract artists and have asked them a few questions--well, I'm always better with questions than answers--and photographed their studios.

Today is Collin Murphy, an abstract artist from Portland OR. I did not concentrate on the artist's bio or their past experience because the focus is on today and their current studio. I asked Collin to describe her studio before she started answering questions.

She said:
My studio is about 2/3 of a full basement. It has loads of space; artificial light, which is OK for my work. A more comfortable floor would be helpful; ie, interlocking rubber mats. A dedicated small sink is on my wish list, too. Also, I would like a worktable on which I could construct 3-dimensional pieces, possibly with a turntable. I am really lucky to have so much space, and I don’t have to worry about messing up the rest of the house. I am a very messy worker and don’t enjoy cleaning up.

Who would you invite to a small dinner party you were hosting? The person (artist or not) could be living or dead, including fictional. Describe why this person is your choice.
What an intriguing question. Most artists I admire probably wouldn’t make great dinner companions; eg, Rothko, Pollock. I think I would have to choose a literary person who would be a great conversationalist and George Sand comes to mind. I would love to ask her about her real relationship with Chopin, but more important, she was a feminist way ahead of her time, even though she chose to use a man’s name in order to publish and dress like one in order to be able to go where she wished.

Who are some artists who stir your soul and why? Botticelli, because of the exquisite beauty of his painting; Michelangelo because of the combination of beauty and power in his work; Chagall because of his dreamlike images and bright colors, Van Gogh because of his brushstrokes, Hundertwasser because of his unique vision and colors, Diebenkorn because of his geometric abstractions and quality of his lines; O’Keefe because of the power of her “magnified” images ; Hilda Morris because I can almost feel her touch upon the clay; Hans Hofmann because of his lively colors, contrasts, quality of motion within abstraction; Paul Klee, because of his imaginative drawing; Picasso because of his amazing versatility… I could go on and on….

If you could study under any artist living or dead - who would that be? Hans Hofmann. He was at Berkeley when I was there but I was busy being a scientist. If I had studied abstract painting with him then, my life would have been totally different.

How important is it to you, that your work be seen by others. When you balance the making of the art versus showing or exhibiting your art, how do those stack up? The Process is more important to me than the Product. Making art gives me sensual satisfaction. I can never recapture the feelings I had while creating art when I look at what I have done later.

What is your favorite reaction that anyone has ever had to your work? When a person said to me at my very first show: “I am in love with your paintings”, and promptly bought two of them. What was the most deflating? I tend to block out negative comments, so I can’t answer that one.

Do you find titles to be integral to understanding a work of art? I try not to look at a title until I have studied a work; I think the viewer needs to develop a response intuitively and not be led on by a title. Then, sometimes, the title will help to refine one’s understanding of the artist’s motive. Describe how you develop titles for your work. Titles and narratives come and go as I work on a painting. Sometimes at the end I immediately think of the right title and sometimes I have to struggle to come up with one that won’t lead the viewer too much. I think it’s better to let the viewer imagine more rather than have implanted ideas.

When you are working in your studio do you think about your audience and their reaction to the work? If I am working on pieces for a particular show with a theme, I do try to fit in with that theme, but mainly I think about my inner narrative of what’s happening in the painting. And if yes, who do you imagine your audience to be? I just imagine someone looking at the work and getting the feel of the story that’s in my head, not the actual story, just a similar emotional state.

Where does your need to create come from?
It is a driving energy force and I do not know the source!

Explain what happens when you first get to the studio.
On a new piece, I just start putting colors on until the entire surface is covered. Then I start to think about shapes and “stories” that are going on in the painting. It is like making a clay man that comes to life gradually .

Does art serve a function beyond decorating walls?
I can’t believe you are asking this question!! Are you a Republican on the budget committee?? :>)

Name something you’ve done to further yourself as an artist that you thought wouldn’t be successful but was, and something you thought would be great but wasn’t. I guess this depends on how one measures success. Sometimes the payoff or lack thereof does not occur for years, so I don’t think I’m ready to make these judgements yet!

Best book or books about art you’ve ever read.
Too many books for me to mention, but there are great biographies of De Kooning , Cezanne, Matisse, O”Keefe that are worth studying.

How do you define abstraction?
Any painting/sculpture that is at least partly non-representational.

Do you have any favorite art supplies that you would like to recommend? No, anything is fair game.

What special tools do you like to use? Styrofoam meat trays cut up to make surfaces that can be indented with a tool for printing on a surface without a press.

What would you really like for people to say about your art?
That it makes them happy or makes them think.
If you could go anywhere-any country-for inspiration, where would you go and why?
It doesn’t matter where I am, my inner landscape is my real inspiration.

Thank you so much Collin!

You can see more of Collin's work here.


Paula McNamee said...

Jan, What a great idea to interview one of your favorite artists. I'm really inspired by her work. Thank you, Paula

Celeste Bergin said...

Nice interview...I enjoyed reading it.