The Wick - Suzy Murphy, Courtesy of the artist The Wick - Suzy Murphy, Courtesy of the artist
Monday Muse

Interview Artist and Sculptor Suzy Murphy

Suzy Murphy
05 December 2022
Suzy Murphy
05 December 2022
The Connaught Christmas tree has been unveiled, marking the start of the festive season. It is the seventh year the 9-metre Nordmann Fir tree has been designed by a celebrated artist. This year, East London-born sculptor, and this week’s Monday Muse, Suzy Murphy takes over the reins from the likes of Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Antony Gormley.

It has been a busy few months for Murphy, an alumna of St Martin’s School of Art, as she has also been working on paintings and monoprints for her latest solo show at Lyndsey Ingram gallery. Of Dark and Light’s huge snowy skyscapes are reflective of Murphy’s recurring focus on vast, deserted landscapes with only the smallest hint of a human presence – the headlights of a car or an isolated cabin. After moving to Alberta, Canada at the age of five and exploring extensively on annual road trips to the Rocky Mountains, sprawling townships and prairies, Murphy has developed an appreciation of the vast, open landscapes of North America, which she documents in small, spontaneous images and sketches that become the basis for her often deeply autobiographical paintings.

You can see Of Dark and Light at Lyndsey Ingram gallery until 23 December 2022, and The Connaught Christmas tree brightening up Carlos Place until the first week of January, 2023. Before then, discover the inspiration behind both below…

THE WICK:   Who is your ultimate Monday Muse?

Suzy Murphy: :   My Monday Muse is my gallerist Lyndsey Ingram who makes all things possible for me. Her dedication to facilitating her artists is second to none. Her integrity, honesty and dependability are rare gems in today’s world.

TW:   What is your typical Monday?

SM:   Going to the studio, like every other day. I have a very consistent routine. I always get to my studio by 11am and leave sometime between 7-9pm unless I’m sleeping there, which I do when I’m working on the large canvases.

TW:   What wider message do you hope to share through your Christmas tree installation for The Connaught?

SM:   The dog on the tree is centred on a series of works entitled “Toby Was A Girl”, which was based on my childhood dog. She was given to me by my young mother who, distracted with her own life, forgot to mention that the puppy was a girl. So, after naming her Toby, I would forever be explaining when walking her that “he” was in fact a “she”. She came to symbolise part of myself, of my childhood experience. And she travelled artistically, in symbolic form, through various landscapes. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes dark. But here she arrives now, triumphantly on The Connaught Christmas tree. And if she symbolises anything in this festive period, it is one of hope and peace, and light over dark. At the base of the tree are the titles of sculptural works that were made for a series called “A Girl’s Progress”. They describe the various stages one must pass through to arrive at “Peace”. It begins with “Solitude” (the studio) to “Truth” (honesty with yourself), which leads to “Passion” (my art) to “Peace”, which is the ultimate destination. So “Toby” arrives here in peace and wishes all a magical Christmas.

TW:   What is your favourite Christmas tradition in your household?

SM:   I don’t get too caught up in Christmas as the studio takes all of my creative energy, so I leave a lot of it to my husband – sometimes Christmas decorations and all it involves feels like more work. But I love cooking, so planning the Christmas meal is the one thing I truly look forward to.

“From being a child, I was continually making internal narratives and trying to place these onto paper.”

TW:   What is the meaning of the title of your current exhibition, Of Dark and Light, and how does it relate to the artworks shown?

SM:   The show’s title is based on what I believe to be at the core of my work, which I’ve previously discussed in the works above. The struggle between these forces of light and dark, both in its subject matter and in the very language of paint. Although I’m using landscape to describe these emotional states, they are always autobiographical.

TW:   What one piece of advice would you like to pass on to aspiring artists?

SM:   Believe, believe, believe.

TW:   You were born in London and then moved to Alberta, Canada, how did this influence your practice?

SM:   The sense of displacement as a child was, of course, difficult whilst I was experiencing it, but as an artist it has served me well. It meant that from a very young age, I was always observing. From being a child, I was continually making internal narratives and trying to place these onto paper. This led to me keeping visual diaries very early on, which I still do. I travel with these diaries and they are the backbone of my practice.

TW:   What is your favourite culturally curious spot in London?

SM:   I still love to be back in Whitechapel, which is where I was born and spent my childhood. I love how the East End is so many things, to so many people, for so many generations. It has always been a melting pot of cultures. I learnt so much from being there, and still do.

TW:   If you were stranded on a desert island, which three things would you take with you?

SM:   Paint, brushes and paper. I will be totally OK if I have these with me.

TW:   What would be your dream art gift this Christmas?

SM:   Can I ask for anything? Even if it’s not possible? I really loved Making Modernism at the Royal Academy, so I would wish for the painting “Infant with Mother’s Hand” by Modersohn Becker. Her story and her art are truly moving.

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