“I think what’s going on right now is a f**king disaster”: In conversation with artist Brendan Murphy

The American artist on social media, society and the importance of art on the eve of his new Maddox Gallery exhibition

If Brendan Murphy’s life story were to be made into a film, one suspects it would garner criticism for being a little too unrealistic. The Los Angeles-based one-time professional basketball player, turned Wall Street trader, turned successful artist might reasonably be held up as the world’s coolest poster boy for the multi-hyphenate career.

Everything from the trauma of 9/11 (in which, as a stockbroker in New York, he lost friends) to the high-octane drama of playing professional sport, have played a role in shaping the artist he is today. That is, an artist sporting a tie-dye Led Zeppelin sweater and enjoying a cup of coffee, surrounded by the pieces that make up his solo exhibition taking place this month at London’s Maddox Gallery.

Rush of Blood to the Head, which runs until 20th July, is comprised of a bold, graphic series of artworks and striking sculptures (a chromatic spaceman is ready to greet you at the gallery’s entrance). Each piece bears Murphy’s signature scrawl of symbols, figures, words, and equations — rendering them part-science classroom chalkboard, part-Basquiat canvas. Many of them have also been crafted using a reflective silver-based chrome, causing the viewer to quite literally confront themselves in his work.

“Working with this reflective chrome material was always a conscious decision on my part,” says Brendan, in an accent inflected by the eclectic array of regions he has called home over the years. “Firstly, I just like how it looks! But secondly, I noticed something amazing happening when people came close to get a good look at the spaceman. I could see them being drawn to his visor like it’s a mirror — and they got lost into it, and I thought to myself ‘that’s something I want to experiment with’.”

Brendan Murphy

Scribbled in what I imagine is a deceptively haphazard way across his work, are equations littered with everything from Bruce Springsteen lyrics to words including lust, love, passion and Rock’n’Roll. All, it would seem, with an aim to provoke the viewer, helping them to be present and in tune with their emotions.

“One of the best compliments I get is when people say to me ‘your paintings draw me into this moment,’ or they tell me that it has helped them to put everything else aside,” the artist explains. “Obviously, I can’t think like that when I’m executing the piece, but if that’s what happens — that’s the dream.”

With such a passion for bringing people into confrontation with the world before him, I wonder what Brendan thinks of our newfound dependance on technology — and in particular, social media? His answer is characteristically frank, “I think what’s going on right now is a fucking disaster, as far as attention spans are concerned,” he says.

“The idea of social media, and always being judged or not judged? I won’t touch it! I think it’s one of the worst things that’s happened to us — this constant checking up and looking in is a nightmare.” His passion for the subject causes the colour to rise in his cheeks, and brushes as fresh gloss of authenticity across the shiny silver veneers of his work.

Moving Forward by Brendan Murphy

His goal with Rush of Blood to the Head, is in fact quite simple. “If I had one wish — and I think every artist thinks like this — it would be to bring my audience in and make them feel like they are right there,” he says. “For me, if people don’t look at their phone at all while they’re in this room, that will be proof that I have given them a good time, and done my job right.”

Behind the scenes at Brendan Murphy's star-studded launch party...

Brendan’s former career as a professional basketball player — alongside the concurrence of his exhibition and the Wimbledon championships — saw a galaxy of sporting stars descend on the Maddox Gallery for an intimate dinner to launch Rush of Blood to the Head.

Everyone from Serena Williams to Novak Djokovic and Grigor Dimitrov took time away from training to celebrate the artist in W1, and we were lucky enough to go behind the scenes.

Take a look at the video below…

Rush of Blood to the Head runs at the Maddox Gallery until 20th July

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