painter born in 1970
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CLAIRE MURRAY, MA Fine Art, BA Fine Arts (Painting)
Clair tells her story:
I was born in the north east of England in a rural part of county Durham, during a period of economic hardship in the north. My parents were not in any way creative, but they nurtured my artistic potential, and fully supported me through art college .
After my undergraduate degree in Fine Art, I completed a Masters’ in Fine Art from Northumbria University in Newcastle, continuing my art practice in the north east for some years, before relocating to Yorkshire.
Since my MA in Fine Art in 1995, my artwork has ranged from the traditional to conceptual, through interesting fusions of drawing, painting, print, stitch, collage and mixed media, and most recently semi-abstract painting.
The pull of my heart to the north east coast is often present in my work, combining and harmonizing with the dramatic and earthy landscape of Yorkshire. At the heart of my practice, when I’m most happy with a piece, is perhaps when the elements – be they earth, wind, sky, sun or water – are successfully united, in a painting.
I taught art to college students for many years, which I loved, but it took me a long time to have the confidence in my own practice to leave teaching in 2019 and fulfill my dream to return to full time painting.
So now I am a self-employed professional practicing artist, running my own studio, I sometimes teach freelance, and I love it!
My art practice has developed enormously since I could devote all my time to it, and I am producing the best work of my life now. Turning 50 last year, and using those life and teaching experiences has made me into a stronger artist with so much more to explore. I live in a creative rural community with beautiful hillside views from my studio and home with my husband and teenage son, plus dog and cat.
On the Way Up
2021 Viral Collaboration, Bridgeport Art Centre, Chicago, Jan-Apr
2020 Permanent Collection, Moorcock Inn, Norland, Halifax
2019 Grit Arts Group Show, Temperance Movement, Halifax
2019 Globe Arts Summer Show, Slaithwaite, W Yorks
2019 Pic and Mix, Pineapple Black Gallery, Middlesborough
2019 New Paintings, with Maggie O’Keeffe, Holmfirth Arts Festival Fringe, Slaithwaite, W Yorks
2019 Solo Exhibition ‘Where Earth Meets Sky’, Artsmill, Hebden Bridge, Jan-Feb
2018/19 Penwith Associate Members Winter Exhibition, St Ives, Cornwall
2018 Penwith Associate Members Summer Exhibition, St Ives, Cornwall
2018 Globe Arts Summer Exhibition, Slaithwaite, W Yorks
2018 Design Exhibition, Slate Art Gallery, Leamington Spa
2017 Artsmill Winter Open Exhibition, Hebden Bridge, West Yorks
2017 Electric Open Exhibition, Electric Picture House, Congleton, Cheshire
2017 Through Which Light Passes, HB1 Gallery, The Holy Biscuit
2016 – 2020. Hope Gallery, Red Brick Mill, West Yorks
2016 Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh Exhibition, Butchers Works, Sheffield
2016 Design Exhibition, Diesel Art Gallery (now Slate Art Gallery), Leamington Spa
2015 Emerging Designers Exhibition, Hotel De Gallifet, Aix-en-Provence, France
2014 Home Is in The North, Northern Qtr., Manchester
2014 Exhibiting delegate at UKTI Lifestyle & Heritage reception, British Embassy, Paris
2014 Home Is in The North, Northern Qtr., Manchester
2014 Home London, Heart Home Magazine ‘New Designer’, Earls Court
2013 Independent Interiors Show, 2022 Northern Qtr., Manchester
2013 South Pennines Making and Doing Festival, Uppermill
2011 Mill Bank Artists Group Show
2003 Open Studio, Hebden Bridge Arts Festival
1996 Funky Four + One More, Newcastle Upon Tyne
1995 MA Show, University of Northumbria\Newcastle University
1994 Group Show, University of Northumbria
1992 Northern Graduates Exhibition, Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London
1992 Fresh Art, Business Design Centre, London
1992 Ferens Art Gallery Open Exhibition, Hull
1992 BA Show, University of Humberside
Work in Private Collections: Paris, Seville, Nice, New York, Sydney, Germany, Belgium, France, Palm Springs, Minneapolis, Kansas, and extensively in the UK.
A WORD FROM THE ARTIST
My paintings are in a state of transition at the moment, and past work was more obviously concerned with the landscape, it’s topography, ecology and our relationship to it as humans.
At university during my undergraduate degree, I was heavily influenced by the Abstract Expressionists, such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Wassily Kandinsky and Willem Da Kooning, and the British poet Ted Hughes. These artists, and the work of Peter Lanyon and Graeme Sutherland, have stayed with me throughout my own development as a contemporary artist in the UK. During my MA in Fine Art, I explored more conceptual and mixed media forms, such as installation, photography and film, before returning to painting later.
My paintings are essentially about the world around me, an attempt to understand the systems and natural order of our existence. I am inspired by the landscape, its geography, topography, light, colour, texture and sense of place and space. As a visual artist, the physical natural environment gives me such a lot of visual stimuli to work with, which feeds my mental and imaginative landscapes to the point that I never work to ‘represent’ a place, but perhaps try instead to ‘inhabit’ that space within a painting.
I observe, think, read and watch, but the way I approach a painting is instinctive and process driven, working through a piece layer by layer, until the painting reveals itself to me. The substrate I begin with, always helps me form the initial marks, and so leads the process – a hard wooden surface is resistant and perfect for collage, texture and crisp line; a soft, smooth canvas perfect for thin, pouring applications and more careful brushwork. So, my starting points vary, depending on the surface, and the process develops with each thin, thick, translucent or opaque layer. Often, the paint is applied, and is scraped back to reveal stains, remains of colour layer over one another, and creating much more depth of colour. I spray, wipe, smudge and transfer, and paint some more. I was uncertain of colour for a long time, but through many explorations, my understanding of colour has grown considerably, and I take much care to mix up my colours on my palette, (rather than use them straight from the tube).
The physicality of the paint has always fascinated me, and I often use collage and non-traditional art materials in the creative process to prepare interesting surface texture on my canvas. I often let gravity, and perhaps the laws of physics, be part of the process – allowing the paint to puddle, drip, splash and blend on its own, but with guidance from me as I carefully choose the paint colour, consistency and composition. I prop up the painting for drips to move the paint, or work on the floor, allowing puddles to form, merge and blend. Working on the floor also allows me a real sense of freedom from being stuck in a conventional composition with a top, middle and bottom, and the ability to walk round and around a piece, seeing it from all angles. This way, the composition stays balanced and even, but is always much more exciting and dynamic. There are often strong contrasts in my paintings – such as light and dark values, soft and hard edges, smooth and textured areas, colour opposites that are at once harmonious and surprising.
I would also consider myself a painter who draws, as almost every piece contains some form of line, creating a tension or energy with the paint: thin, spindly lines in crayon, painted or etched into the surface, unifying the composition, or suggesting a form of scarring of the surface.
The vertiginous nature of a lot of my paintings suggests some sort of treacherous path along a steep ridge, at once beautiful and dangerous, risky and rugged, and teetering somewhere between safety and peril. How easy it might be to, literally, tumble down the hill-side; falling, being a recurring ‘fear’ dream of mine as a child. I am interested in the balance between representation and abstract expression, where the representational landscape that is inherent, begins to shift towards more abstract concepts concerning energy, light and space, and indeed our place in the universe and our relationship with it.
There is no attempt to recreate a perfect ‘scene’, but to convey textures, colour palette and light of exterior (and sometimes interior) spaces we all recognise, remember or imagine. I explore ideas of exposure and sanctuary, the idea that the landscape is at once beautiful, safe, romantic and soft, but also treacherous, sinister and often dangerous. Dangerous conditions masquerading as beauty. The elements: water, earth, air and sky are present in almost all of the pieces, suggesting a natural order, balance, drama and fragility of our environment.