Benjamin Murphy: Iconoclasm

5 May-3 Jun 2023

Union Gallery
London E2 6PU


UNION Gallery is pleased to present Benjamin Murphy’s solo exhibition, Iconoclasm, with his latest works produced between his Helsinki and London studios. 

Although flowers are the pictorial protagonists in Murphy's work, they are not the subject. Rather, they are the medium by which he explores a range of themes and concepts. His works are a testament to the idea that a figurative painting need not only depict the subject matter itself but can delve into deeper issues and ideas. Houseplants and cut flowers are wild things that have been cropped, stunted, and contained, leading to a sense of constrained potential and limited freedom.

Benjamin Murphy's exhibition showcases a bold and daring approach to making. The British artist embraces the unpredictable and often uncontrollable aspects of creation through the medium of charcoal on raw canvas. The key element of Murphy's process is his use of the unforgiving medium. Once a mark is made, it cannot be erased, which leads to a constant exploration of the medium's chaotic nature. Murphy creates multiple versions of each piece, for which the final composition is often changed and cropped down. This obsessive approach encourages the possibility of failure with only the strongest compositions surviving.

The title of Salvador Dali’s Nature Morte Vivante comes to mind when viewing these works. Translated literally into English it becomes “Living Still Life.” In contrast to the similar French phrase “Still Life”; “Nature Morte”, translating directly into “Dead Nature”.

 Dali attached “vivante”, implying action and life, in doing so he introduces, movement, the life within dead nature. Here we question the nature of the works in the exhibition, the vitality of them, and the mortality. 

The balance between polarities recure in Murphy's work, the beauty and disorder of life and making are two sides of the same coin. The works combine the delicate floral subject matter with violent and chaotic mark-making, resulting in a fascinating interplay between life and death, beauty and darkness, delicacy and violence, and yin and yang.