Photography / Editorial / Print

“The idea of of something sinister going on but never really fully explained,” is what urban artist Benjamin Murphy describes of his electrical tape works. He prefers to let the viewer decide for themselves when deconstructing the monochrome line drawings. “I don't do any colour at all, it is much more striking for me. black and white is automatically a little bit more uncomfortable to look at.” Compounded as the forms are often of seemingly vulnerable people, “I like to keep my work on the thin line between beauty and fragility,” with eyeless characters inducing feelings of empathy and pity.

Born in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, Murphy has a BA in Graphic Design from Salford University and an MA in Fine Art and although he hates telling this story, working with electrical tape was born of a drunken episode which resulted in a friends wall being covered by the adhesive material. The next day “I was sneaking around disused parts of the university, messing around and ever since it has spiralled out of control,” all-consuming, as he tells us he can at times be so absorbed, that he spends “12 or more hours straight on piece.”

A lot of his work deals with the human condition, and is not constrained to the gallery or a framed piece, with his work seen on the street, where life is most energetic. “I Love doing stuff on the street, when someone enters a gallery to view an artwork, they already have some preconceptions and ideas about what an artwork should be. When something is encountered on the street, they don't have any of these kind of intrinsic rules about what art should be. It gives me a lot more freedom.”

Continually experimenting and challenging himself, Murphy is always thinking about what the next level is, which we see in a piece where railings are used to create words when viewed at a specific angle, “a new piece, something I've been wanting to do for a while.”  He has also collaborated with other artists, helping his friend, David Shillinglaw paint the walls on the front of Village Underground, which is where we meet for the interview at an event for Anti-Slavery International. Murphy has donated a piece, entitled The Invisible Woman which almost has a 3D effect, as it is drawn onto three sheets of perspex, on both sides. “Technically a six layered artwork,”and the piece “is still referencing sex slavery slightly,” but more an implied connection than explicit one.

Speaking of some of his street artwork we see in Shoreditch, he has “done a lot in this area and want to move out.” As a tribute to Follow Your Art: Street Art Against Slavery, he did a “nine storey high tape drawing” of a man in shackles on a window of the NCP car park on Great Eastern Street, it could be that greater challenges are merely now sought. The long winter has also not helped, “with all this cold weather, the tape glue I use solidifies. I am itching to get out in the street. Want to do some more collaborations with people and also exhibit a bit more outside of England.” 
Works such as housewife with her head in the oven; a recurring theme of losing innocence; skeletal drawings of animals and comment on sexuality, offer another element to his work and its comment, unfurled from tape, on the world. There is a preference to sketch from life, however, “my tape drawings take so long, I never do them with a model, working a lot from photographs, but never drawing true to them.” It is a true obsession, “I have no other hobbies, artwork is my entire life, its like an addiction.”

Interview and Portraits
Nardip Singh

Images provided by artist
Copyright © Benjamin Murphy


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