If we’re willing, all of our life is the long reveal of new selves, like a paper chain of small evolutions. Each link seamlessly fitting into what previously was, while punctuating the course forward. “I was ticking along for a while and every 18 months or so I’d put on a solo exhibition in Port Fairy; only off my own bat and never in the big smoke. Last year I thought to myself, I want to do something different,” says Liam Murphy on creating his latest body of work – Super Mild – exhibiting at the Fenton & Fenton Prahran Showroom on the 10th until the 18th of February 2021.
“I knew I needed to take the next step, so I approached Lucy Fenton and she was up for it. I immediately thought oh no, what have I done! But it’s something I needed to do.” says Liam. Maybe, we have to move forward, not because we’re sure it’s right, but because we’re willing to find out for ourselves. The collection came together in the last months of 2020 when the heaviness of the year started to dissipate as restrictions lifted and the weather warmed. The work is a mishmash of “happy accidents”. It’s an odd glimpse of gold paint amongst a predominantly pastel palette or a contrasting brushstroke emerging through the layers, “It’s a lot freer than what I’ve created in the past. I’d just returned from the beach, so it has a light, bright and airy feel to it.”
“The colours meld together. They kiss. I love how two distinctly different colours can almost become one when you put them together or how they interplay when nestled alongside each other.”
“I started with a loose, unstructured and wild background, and for some reason I decided to do it on the biggest canvas I had, without knowing if it would work. It was the largest painting I’d ever done …and it all came together. It was a revelation, so I continued on with the rest.”
While the approach to colour and layering was the mark of a new link in the chain for Liam, the energy pumping through his veins and shooting through his fingertips was fuelled by music – an enduring characteristic of the artist’s process. “Music is meditative for me. It’s always playing as I paint. I might be listening to the stuff my old man bought me from the 50s and 60s, or it could be a band I recently saw live, or music I was blasting from my bedroom in my twenties,” he says.
“The names for the pieces in Super Mild are all from a band out in LA. Every one of my paintings now is named after a song and it’s generally what I’m listening to at the time. It’s a bit of a homage – I wish I could play music, so this is my tip of the hat to the artists.”
For Liam, it didn’t start out this way, “Four years ago, I was on the road about to go on a family holiday when I stopped by to show Lucy my work for the first time. I was nervous, but also excited, this could be the making of me. When Lucy saw my paintings, she told me she thought they were beautiful and I immediately relaxed, but only for a second until she asked what they were called. I didn’t have names for them. I was self-conscious just starting out, I didn’t even sign my paintings, let alone title them. Lucy suggested naming the pieces, so when I jumped back into the car I turned to my kids and said: ‘Remember those paintings that were just in the back? Well, we need to name them’. My son Charlie looked out the window and said, ‘small coffee eighty-cents’ and my daughter Maeve said, ‘deep ocean octopuses’. The other few were equally as ridiculous but perfect.”
This sense of fun is a connective link between art and life for Liam,
a willingness to dance in the intersection between work and play, which lends to its own kind of self-assurance, “In the past, when people have asked me what I do, I wasn’t quite confident enough to say I’m an artist, I’m still not, but I’m getting there” he laughs.