British artist Tatyana Murray finds inspiration in harsh juxtaposition: the tranquility of nature and the restlessness of urban civilization, childhood innocence and the brutality of man, subtle simplicity and grandiose complexity. But her work transcends mere depiction, immersing viewers in her world of tension and resolution through an elegantly balanced amalgamation of texture and light. Of particular note is her seemingly endless repertoire of materials, which in turn gives her work its unquestionably modern flair.
We chatted with Murray about her background, some of her own reflections on her work, and living in NYC.
AZ: On your website you write, “Via a meditative process the pieces reveal themselves through trial and error.” Could you tell us a little more about this meditative process?
TM: When creating a piece I work solo so as not to have any distractions. Never do I have a fixed, exact image in mind. I have a sense of direction and am open if the work takes me somewhere unexpected. The ‘meditative process’ is a state I get into when the repetitive forms start to all interconnect, creating harmony. Sometimes the piece reveals itself to me with little struggle; other times it can be challenging, but in the end I find, harmony amongst the chaos.
AZ: In your statement for In the Woods, you mention your relationship with Lord of the Flies and the Grimm tales. Could you talk a little bit about the literary relationship for your work, Through the Looking Glass?
TM: I am fascinated by the opposing elements of life, both visual and emotional. All three of these literary works involve children. Childhood is a time when innocence and purity are confronted with challenges, and it is a time of exploring and discovering one’s own identity. Especially in Lord of the Flies and Grimm Tales, the dark side and corruption of innocence are taken right to the edge of insanity. The main theme of Through the Looking Glass is seduction, yet at the same time fear, fear of stepping into the unknown.
AZ: Your work incorporates such variegated textures and materials. Have you always experimented with this multidimensional style, or are your artistic roots more traditional?
TM: Being self-taught, I feel free to work within any medium. Not knowing how to work some of them allows me to take risks and place opposing materials together to create an interesting dialogue between hard – soft; fluid – architectural.
AZ: You’ve been in NYC since 1996. What is the art scene like in the UK compared to here in New York?
TM: NYC has been much more open to my creative endeavors. In the UK they tend to want to know which art school you went to, and if you are in an art movement of collaborating artists. NYC has welcomed my unconventional path of being an artist and has been super supportive.
AZ: Who are some of your greatest influences?
TM: Turner. As a child, I would drag my mother to the National Portrait Gallery to look at his most abstract seascapes. The movement: at times disorienting, yet beautiful. The simplest brush stroke so descriptively depicting the bow of the boat mesmerized me. The balance of abstraction and suggestion allowed me to fill in the interpretation with whatever narrative I felt that day. I aspire to create the same sense in my work.
Yayoi Kusama and her use of the same pattern over and over again in such a visceral way has always been an obsession of mine, to get lost in the colors and forms escaping the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
AZ: Any up-and-coming artists right now whose work you especially like?
TM: Mark Bradford has been another obsession since the first time I saw his work 15 years ago. The use of materials that are disregarded, such as street posters and masking tape, is awe-inspiring. He creates these abstract, textured paintings that stand up to any of the classics. I was so proud that he represented America in the Venice Biennale this year. My Urban Nature series is a directly influenced by his work.
AZ: Do you hold onto any UK customs in your daily life here in NYC? If so, where is the best place to go for afternoon tea in the city?
TM: Tea is definitely a tradition of which I haven’t let go. I am drinking tea as I am writing this. During time for tea I am more often than not at the studio, and always around 3:30 PM, I make myself a cup.
AZ: You have some stunning public art. How does working in the public sphere compare to your work in your studio?
TM: Thank you. Public art is working on a far larger scale, so that is a significant difference. The key is to find a way of making something that works within the setting of where it is to be shown. I worked on the commission in Tribeca when the roads were all being dug up to update all the plumbing. As you can imagine, it was a complete eyesore among these stunning industrial warehouses. I wanted to create something that related to nature. It had to be visually arresting to allow the passersby to stop, fell and slow down for a moment. The formations of the star bursts were also strategically placed to visually and physically draw the pedestrian down through the side walk.
AZ: Many artists seem to have a kind of secondary artistic outlet (e.g., a musician will enjoy cooking). Do you dabble in any other creative mediums?
TM: While buying my top-floor apartment in the East Village before all the prices skyrocketed, I also purchased roof rights. It was a run-down, tarmacked roof on an angle. I designed and built it all. Now during the warmer seasons, I hold sit-down dinners with home cooked food. Cooking and hosting fellow artists and creative minds has become another artistic outlet. The gardening is another passion. I have created a company with my assistant that develops and creates green scapes for gardens, roof gardens, and decks.
AZ: A few of your works seem to be influenced by books. What are some of your favorite books?
TM: I’ve been reading a lot of biographies. I’m fascinated by the different psychologies of people. Just finished “Guilded Lilly,” about Lilly Safra. I wouldn’t say I have favorites. However, I read “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington three times. She is an inspirational woman who has helped me adjust my life to create good habits and to live a fulfilled, balanced life between work and pleasure.
AZ: What can we expect from you next?
TM: Not sure. I more often than not surprise myself! We will just have to see…
AZ: How can we keep up with your future endeavors?
TM: Friends have been pestering me for years to join Instagram, so finally I have. I would say that is a good way to keep up with me – @tatyanamurrayartis. I am constantly updating my site with new work: tatyanamurray.com
images// courtesy of the artist, top image ANGEL MOTH (Light Veil Series) 29 1/2H X 28 1/4W X 5 1/2D Refracted Light; Glass, Plexi, Led Lights, White frame