This interview originally appeared in Forbes.
Brendan Murphy has had quite the colorful background, first, he was a professional basketball player in Europe and then he found himself in New York as a Wall Street trader before becoming a fully-fledged artist, which takes us to the current day.
For his new solo exhibition entitled, Rush of Blood to the Head Murphy at Maddox Gallery, London, he presents a very bold and graphic series of chalkboard artworks. Here, he makes use of symbols, figures, words, and equations cramming them into the space (think A Beautiful Mind and you'll be halfway there).
For those who know his work, equations are a signature and this body of work is no different, playing with the subject in an emotional setting. The aim? To provoke the viewer, helping them to be present and in tune with their emotions.
“We are delighted to be representing Brendan exclusively in the UK. His talent lies in his ability to convey the intricate spectrum of human emotion in a way that feels imaginative and innovative. He continually pushes creativity beyond the confines of the canvas in a way that no other artists are doing today.” Jay Rutland, Creative Director of Maddox Gallery
Felicity Carter: What is your first memory of art?
Brendan Murphy: I remember visiting Jackson Pollock’s house in East Hampton in my early 20s. That was a big deal. I’m sure I had earlier experiences of art before then but that probably had the biggest impact on me. I come from an Irish-Italian family based in Boston and it wasn’t a very creative community. If you said you were a painter, you would paint homes – no-one dreamt of being an artist - people would have laughed at you. I also remember seeing Gustav Klimt’s paintings when I was in Vienna around the age of 23. I can still see them vividly in my mind.
FC: Tell us about your background and how you transitioned to the art world...
BM: I left America at a young age to play professional basketball in Europe for a couple of years and after that, I ended up moving to New York to work as a trader on Wall Street. My transition into the art world can be pinpointed to a single day – 9/11. I was on the ground when it happened. Everyone who worked on Wall Street lost friends, we all knew people who died that day. That day was like a mirror for a lot of people and made many of us question ‘am I doing what I really want to be doing?’ That’s when I decided to leave finance and become an artist. I remember getting out of New York on the day of 9/11 before they set up the roadblocks and spending this very eerie night in a cabin I had in the woods just painting. I had been painting as a hobby for a while, but that house became my studio. I played poker for a few years to survive whilst I painted. I was fortunate that I had friends who were very famous painters Eric Fischl for example. I would hit tennis balls with him in exchange to go to his studio to see his work. Also, David Salle and Robert Bleckner, I got a crash course with two or three of the best painters in the world and I began to experiment with different materials and that just kickstarted the entire process.
FC: Which artists past or present have had an impact on you?
BM: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jackson Pollock, my friend Eric Fischl, Willem De Kooning, Picasso. I could name so many. Francis Bacon, I love his stuff; his use of color and the moodiness of his work, it's just phenomenal.
FC: How would you sum up your aesthetic?
BM: Vivid. Thought-provoking. Layered.
FC: What's in the name of the show?
BM: Rush of Blood to the Head. I write it on everything. That feeling - a rush of blood to the head - is a precursor to big decisions. No big decisions are made without that feeling. For me, it’s like butterflies - it could be anything – love, leaving your job, taking the next step personally and professionally.
FC: Tell us about the exhibition...
BM: The exhibition consists of 10 sculptures and 20 paintings, all of which explore my greatest inspirations: formulas, equations, relationships, and emotions.
FC: What do you want to communicate with this body of work and how do you want the viewer to feel?
BM: One of the reactions I love when people look at my work is when they say: ‘I feel present.’ It’s such a rarity these days to be present and actually, take something in without any distractions. My work has a lot going on, so I think people do have to spend a lot of time observing and dissecting what’s in front of them. I want the viewer to feel inspired and more in tune with their emotions. I hope people look at my work and feel encouraged to embrace the unknown.
FC: Who or what has had the biggest impact on your work?
BM: Music has a massive impact on my creative process. I listen to it all the time as I work. David Bowie is a huge influence. I see each piece of art I make as a song and my goal is to produce David Bowie level songs rather than just pop songs. That’s the goal: consistently taking my work to another dimension.
FC: How your style evolved? And how do you see it evolving?
BM: I’m constantly experimenting. This body of work is what I’m most recognized for, but I design clothing, I’ve recently just launched my own app – Boonji. I have a whole body of work that depicts flowers, another series solely of women. I will always push myself creatively and try new things because I’m a big believer in that. At the end of the day, life is liquid. We must keep evolving and feel brave enough to take big leaps even if we are terrified.
Check out the artist on maddoxgallery.com