Artist Spotlight: Brendan Murphy’s Human Experience

How the contemporary standout ventures into the unknown, one spaceman at a time.
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Empress Katy Perry
Written by Gabriela Ulloa
Brendan Murphy
Portrait courtesy of Brendan Murphy Studios.

“I’m not a very technically talented painter or sculptor,” quips contemporary artist Brendan Murphy of his notable ascension in the art world. Heralded as the next Damien Hirst, Murphy’s work communicates a unique perspective of the human experience and invites onlookers to venture into their psyche.

I find it interesting how we process emotions and land on a feeling,” he notes of the concept behind his work. “The unknown is scary for us, but we all share that abstract process.

Utilizing several different mediums—cue his double-take-worthy paintings and showstopping sculptures—Murphy encapsulates the fluidity and fragility of life, one standout piece at a time. Hailing from an anything-but-ordinary background, the athlete-turned-Wall Street trader-turned full-time artist has unconventional splashed all over his impressive résumé. “I don’t come from a place where being a creative person could ever be a job… it just never occurred to me,” Murphy recalls of his upbringing. “If you were a painter, you painted houses.”

After years of pushing the cravings aside, it ultimately was a series of unshakable events (and people) that led the multi-hyphenate to take a leap of faith. After visiting a friend who worked as a stage manager at the Ed Sullivan Theater during his time in New York City, Murphy knew it was time for a change. “I’m sitting there watching rehearsals and in walks Robert Plant in sweatpants and T-shirt. I walked back to the office and quit [my job].” Like most Americans, September 11, 2001, was also a catalyst for the artist. “Being on the ground that day was definitely a push… if you weren’t doing what you needed to be doing, that day gave you the ‘OK, why not?’”

All semblance of subtlety is left at the door when it comes to Murphy and his work. Pulling from our natural hesitation of the undiscovered, Murphy crafts thought-provoking narratives leaving patrons curious and wanting more. But for the artist, innovation and connection is what he seeks out most. “I get really jazzed about making things that move the needle, almost like a time capsule.” Case in point: a 22-foot, 3,000-pound, steel and carbon-fiber spaceman resting proudly on a dock at Hodges Bay Resort in Antigua. “Who embodies embracing the unknown more than somebody jumping out of a spaceship?” he says of the commissioned piece, titled “The Boonji Spaceman,” which has become an attraction for tourists and locals alike.

Who embodies embracing the unknown more than somebody jumping out of a spaceship?

Personal and third-party experiences are scattered throughout his work like Easter eggs asking to be found. The formulas that he’s known for are an ode to the past, present and familiar. When looking closely enough, one can spot the Golden Ratio or the Fibonacci Sequence alongside tales of Murphy’s life. “I was single and dating and trying to figure these women out,” he laughs, talking about what initiated his signature style, “I’d just paint these women and write out formulas of what I was going through.” And when he’s not reminiscing on past experiences, Murphy looks to his collectors, revealing the intimate process behind a commissioned work. “I’ll interview them to get the content that would then go on the paintings.”

As for his chalk-board-like style, Murphy credits artist Eric Fischl—a former mentor—for helping him find his identifiable look. “I was leaning too much on the use of formulas and colors, so he suggested I take it all out and make a painting without any color and just use words.” The intricate combination of complexity and beauty forces us as consumers to slow down and simply look in order to decipher what appears before us. The new LVR magazine logo, which Murphy designed, is a testament to this mentality. “The challenge was the letters,” he says of the process guided by LVR’s editor-in-chief, Kate Davidson Hudson. “In a world dominated by LVMH and Louis Vuitton, we had to find a unique way to put those same letters together.”

I’d just paint these women and write out formulas of what I was going through.

Murphy—whose fans include Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Steph Curry, Warren Buffett and Robert De Niro—stands firmly in the fact that his art, while up for consumption, is most definitely not made for the satisfaction of others. “The risk is that you can’t gauge how people are going to react,” he says. “It’s a very slippery slope trying to figure that out while you’re doing your work.”

In a world dominated by perfectionism and criticism, Murphy just wants to have fun. “At the end of the day,” Brendan smiles, “if I miss out on all the heavy ​‘art stuff’, that’s fine… I just want to make something that’s cool.”

Blue 84 Spaceman, courtesy of Brendan Murphy Studios.
Blue 84 Spaceman, courtesy of Brendan Murphy Studios.
Time Moves Fast & Red Heart 2021, courtesy of Brendan Murphy Studios.
Time Moves Fast & Red Heart 2021, courtesy of Brendan Murphy Studios.
Time Moves Fast & Red Heart 2021, courtesy of Brendan Murphy Studios.

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IP-0A0051EE - 2024-06-21T11:44:12.9942140+02:00