David Murphy


David Murphy DRIFT

David Murphy

selected works

January 11, 2019 - March 9, 2019

Private View: 10 January, 2019, 6-8 pm

ALMA ZEVI is delighted to present David Murphy: DRIFT, the first exhibition in Venice dedicated to the work of this British artist. Bringing together a site-specific sculpture with recent paintings, many of the works on display are shown here for the first time. The selection, which spans from 2015-2018, reveals Murphy’s endless stream of investigations into abstract form, materiality and the natural world. 

The steel sculpture Untitled (Climbing), 2018, installed here as a site-specific intervention, appears to have a life of its own, a biomorphic form  suggesting a growing garden creeper or architectural entity. This soldered metal structure is an exploration of both space and void; a prism through which the viewer experiences Murphy’s paintings within the gallery. Conceived as a complex composition of twisted and rounded parallel lines, this ‘drawing in space’ is crafted entirely by the artist’s own hand.

A selection of recent paintings, the Untitled (2018) series, are included in this exhibition. For these works, the artist uses casein, a fast-drying paint that he meticulously applies to paper delicately washed in colour. Murphy started experimenting with this medium during his 2012 residency in the Engadin, Switzerland. Organised by Alma Zevi, the subsequent body of work was exhibited at Not Vital’s Foundation in Ardez. Casein is traditionally used to paint decorations on Engadin farmhouse facades. The paint is applied and then scratched into, revealing delicate graphic patterns. For this body of work, Murphy has selected an unusual motif: ambiguous rope-like structures with no beginning or end. The imagery of ropes is particularly pertinent in Venice as a city that has always been inextricably linked with seafaring and shipbuilding. 

These techniques and ideas are developed further in Murphy’s Untitled X (2015) and Long Ending (2016) series, where mark-making extends beyond the edges of paper or panel. Patterns appear magnified – suggesting a microcosm or macrocosm in nature, a strand of human DNA, a fabric thread or piece of foliage. Colour is subtly modified and used to build volume; emphasising the tactile, seductive quality of Murphy’s paintings. 

Murphy has developed a technique using specific brushes to create controlled, yet flowing, lines. These paintings speak of the artist’s interest in traditional Chinese and Japanese calligraphic watercolours. Murphy’s Untitled (Blanket), 2018, paintings are a result of these influences and part of a wider investigation into woven textiles; the culmination of which is a major new public sculpture commission for the Piece Hall in Halifax, UK. A great cloth hall of the 18th Century, Piece Hall is one of the most important Georgian Buildings still in existence. Murphy’s interlaced steel sculpture, titled The Blanket (2019), will be on display outside this iconic building from 25 January 2019 and is presented in collaboration with the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. 

David Murphy (b.1983, Newcastle Upon Tyne) studied at the Glasgow School of Art. He is the recipient of the Kenneth Armitage Foundation Fellowship, London (2015-2017) and was shortlisted for the John Moores Painting Prize (2016) and the Jerwood Drawing Prize (2017). Recent exhibitions include Bartha Contemporary London (UK), Galleria Monica de Cardenas, Milan (IT), British Council, Cairo (EG), ALMA ZEVI Venice (IT), New Arts Centre, Salisbury (UK), PEER, London (UK), Yorkshire Sculpture Park (UK). Murphy has worked on large-scale commissions for the National Trust (UK), The Dales Museum (UK) and Edinburgh Sculpture Workshops (UK). Forthcoming commissions include collaborations with Jamie Fobert Architects, a permanent new installation for Oxford House, Oxford Street, London, and The Blanket at the Piece Hall in Halifax (UK). He lives and works in London.