We Chat With Notts Artist Angelo Murphy About His Fascinating Oil Paintings and Winning a Jackson Amateur Prize

How did you come to art?
Like most artists, I can’t remember not having been passionate about drawing. Even now there is something magical about the aroma of a new sketchbook and the smell of paints and pencils. The anticipation and potential to create something is very palpable. Luckily, I don’t think it’s going away.

Despite going through the education system, I consider myself completely self-taught. Everything I know about painting, I discovered on my own. I think that’s true for a lot of artists, because each artist wants to achieve different results so that this journey is unique to them.

I work full time at Nottingham Lakeside and paint whenever I can in my spare time. It can be a real challenge after work to muster the energy to get into the studio, but it’s always worth it. The key is to have balance and routine. I paint in oil on canvas and settled in a studio at home; having experienced studios in large shared buildings with other artists, I think this best suits my time constraints and practice.

You really have the power to make everyday and mundane objects so soft and beautiful. What inspires your work?
I think the first spark of inspiration comes from observation. I don’t wait for inspiration to strike; I am constantly looking for it. If I see a particular shadow or quality of light hitting an object, I will make a note of it or try to remember what caught my attention. There are certain qualities of light and shadow that excite me, that drive me to try to capture and recreate in still life. I try to create small dramas on canvas. With each new composition, the challenge is to achieve this successfully. Still life is a genre that does not have the seriousness it deserves and that is exactly what inspires me and why I adopt it.

What artists are you inspired by?
The 17th century Dutch still life painters absolutely amaze me! Willem Claesz Heda, Clara Peeters, Pieter Claesz to name a few. But also Vermeer – his painting, Woman with a jug of water, is something I never tire of watching. Artists of this period pioneered observation, research into light and shadow, and the rendering of color modulation; It’s breathtaking. They also knew all the secrets – shadow boxes, light boxes, camera obscura and all sorts of wonderful gadgets that helped them when performing great compositions. What I’m trying to do is explore a contemporary response to what I love to watch. An interpretation and appreciation of baroque and chiaroscuro are never far from my compositions, but at the same time we want the work to be relevant, hence the golden syrup.

Nottingham has always had a vibrant arts scene for as long as I can remember

Your work, Citrus with Blue Paper, has just won the Amateur Jackson’s Painting Prize. What did you feel ?
I feel ambivalent towards any type of competition because everything is very subjective, but it creates opportunities. The simple fact of participating allows you to see your work. If you are a visual artist, so that’s what it’s all about, showing the work. The Jackson’s Painting Prize is a very well- respected competition, open to any artist in the world. This year, they received nearly 9,000 entrees, so I was glad I made the shortlist. Winning one of the prizes was a positive experience and raised my profile as an artist. It’s nice to receive validation for something you enjoy doing and encourage other artists to participate.

What do you think stands out about Nottingham’s art scene?
Nottingham has had a vibrant arts scene for as long as I can remember. Fortunately, there is a long tradition of affordable studio spaces to choose from, which has allowed artist groups to thrive. Unfortunately, those spaces are getting harder and harder to find, but they’re there and they underpin a very eclectic mix of talent. What is important for Nottingham is that people have access to great exhibitions and are not discouraged by price barriers. Nottingham Lakeside Arts has an excellent program of free events, as does Nottingham Contemporary.

Do you have any favorite artists from Nottingham?
It’s easy for me. I love Mat Collishaw’s work. Although Collishaw’s practice is now in London, he is originally from Nottingham and actually studied here for a time. I was particularly inspired by his work Last meal on death row, Texas, a series of beautiful C-type photographs where he had recreated the last meals of convicts in the style of Baroque vanitas. They are so dark and poignant and incredibly moving. I still watch them online from time to time just to remind myself.


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