About a decade ago, New York-based James Austin Murray moved from figurative to abstract work on small canvases, limiting himself to black oil paint. The forced constraint was unpredictably liberating to the artist, providing an intense focus and the opportunity to explore the boundaries of his chosen material. Murray has expanded and contacted his parameters over the years, building shaped canvases for a period, which served as a jumping-off point for the paint that followed.
“I wasn’t sure how far I could take it before I hit a wall and needed to reconsider the next step. Every time I felt myself inching up to that wall, I found a way past it. Like martial arts, there was a type of repetition involved. I knew that if I ever got to the point where it was only repetition, I would be done with it. What surprised me was the incremental improvement in my technique and subject. I gathered more control and became more demanding of the work. More and more works would get scrapped because they just weren’t as good as I had come to expect.”
Murray’s current work is both about the paint and the light that reflects on and in it. Despite the simplicity of the materials involved, the surface effects created by the light are anything but. Encountering one of his large black canvases is an almost otherworldly experience. Depending on where you stand, the paintings look like a forbidding landscape you could walk right into - an experience that is both unnerving and deeply seductive.
Murray is represented by established galleries in New York City and California, USA.