b. 1988, lives & works in Brighton UK.
James William Murray is an artist, curator, and educator. He received an MA in photography from the University of Brighton in 2015 and has exhibited in the UK and internationally. His work is in the collection of the Hellenic Centre For Photography and private collections throughout Europe.
In 2017 Murray co-founded the studio and project space Niagara Falls Projects in Brighton UK. In 2018 he was awarded the Sussex Open Commission to produce a new large-scale work. In 2019 he was selected for an artist residency at Towner Gallery Eastbourne UK.
His work is represented by Stephane Simoens Contemporary Fine Art in Knokke-Heist, Belgium
I find desires for the materiality of art objects, and desires for the sensuality of specific bodies become increasingly entwined as I further orientate towards my identity as an artist and queer polyamourous man. I’ve come to see the process of developing my studio practice, and that of nurturing intimate relationships, as my life's work – a vocation that provides opportunities for privileged points of contact with the material world. I explore this process of deferral and exchange through an active investigation of form, space, and material.
My conceptual thinking is underpinned by photographic theory, specifically with regard to ideas of mediated touch and indexical trace, which I explore in relation to my principal artistic concern. My work quickly expanded out of the medium of photography into sculpture and painting, and I now work at intersections between these three primary media. My artworks are necessarily ‘imperfect’ objects, which reveal evidence of human touch and the physicality of their making. I have a keen interest in both classicism and modernist minimalism for their singular and inextricable relationships to the body, controversial masculinities, and architectural space. I have found juxtaposing austere minimalist and classical formalism to be both productive and challenging.
I continually contemplate ways in which desires for lovers’ bodies are deferred on to art-objects, and conversely how bodies are subjected to the same kind of objectification as works of art (I recall the story of the Corinthian Maid, Pliny's mythical origin of the graphic and plastic arts, in which a young woman traces her departing lover's shadow. The drawing is then used as a pattern for a ceramic semblance, a surrogate object – an art-object – to stave off the trauma of romantic loss). I name my works after beloved individuals, usually the men in my life, past and present — desire doesn’t follow a linear trajectory. The act of naming works after specific individuals has become a personal process of mapping and memorialising alternative modes of intimacy, community, and kinship.
I’m interested in spatial dynamics between bodies and other forms – why we are orientated towards some more than others, and how these relations are activated and perpetuated within different contexts and environments e.g. the studio, gallery, public, and domestic spaces. My ongoing series of graphite paintings/sculptures, made by buffing handfuls of powdered material into linen and wooden panels, have elusive surfaces that appear to extend space and elicit the desire to touch. The activation of spatial dynamics between viewers and art-objects aims to heighten awareness of one’s corporeality and embodied space, i.e. how it feels to be positioned within a given space in relation to external objects. This, I believe, has great potential to open up alternative and ultimately more nuanced questions of gender, sexuality, and the erotic than figurative image-based art. My thinking here is largely informed by Sara Ahmed’s Queer Phenomenology and the emerging discourse of ‘queer formalism’.
I have a keen interest in geometry and formal abstraction, and have developed various generative frameworks for my practice. The 2:1 grid is a recurring motif, which provides a scalable format for the exploration of various material interactions. The vertical ‘double square’ ratio is intended to evoke a body or bodies standing or lying side by side. Conceptually, this developed from Lacan's metaphorical 'screen', to which Roland Barthes’ touchstone work on desire, materiality and the photographic image Camera Lucida is indebted, hence another deep-seated connection to photography. Within the poetic space of Lacan’s archaic and problematic theories of psycho-sexual development (which much queer theory has been written through and against, ironically) I have found new opportunities to reinterpret, appropriate, and develop my practice.
These are some of the ways in which desires and memories of queer experience are inscribed within my working process, both subjectively and in relation to established theory.
James William Murray, June 2019
CV & Education
Solo & Two Person Exhibitions
Lingering (two person exhibition with Philip Van Isacker) Stephane Simoens Contemporary Fine Art, Knokke BE
ideal-i (two person project with Alexander Glass) Niagara Falls Projects, Brighton UK
Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing (solo exhibition) Stephane Simoens Contemporary Fine Art, Knokke BE
Desire Works (solo exhibition) Project 78, St Leonard's by Sea UK
Selected Group Shows
Salon, University of Brighton UK
On The Stretcher (with Jesper Skov Madsen Maximilian Schubert, Luc Vandevelde), Stephane Simoens Contemporary Fine Art, Knokke BE
Sussex Open 18 (commission) Towner Gallery, Eastbourne UK
Marks Make Meaning, (with Rachel Whiteread, Antony Gormley, Irvin Pascal, and Mark Wright), University of Brighton UK
Editions Project 78, St Leonard's by Sea UK
Sussex Open, Towner Gallery, Eastbourne UK
Old 16 / New 17 (with Berend Strik, Ross Hansen, Laurent Da Sylva), Stephane Simoens Contemporary Fine Art, Knokke BE
Screened, Ardesia Projects group show for Brighton Photo Fringe UK
East Sussex Open, Towner Gallery & Museum. Eastbourne, UK
NYC Art Book Fair (portfolio presentation) Daily Life Storage MoMA PS1. New York, USA
Athens Photo Festival (photo/artist book exhibition), Benaki Museum (Pireos Annexe), Athens GR
Unit 8 Open Studio, Brighton UK
After Desire MA degree show, University of Brighton UK
Buzzed Phillips Auctioneers, London UK
London Art Fair - Axis project stand, Business Design Centre, London UK
Beneath The Walnut Tree (project with Fiona Alison), Utrophia Project Space, London UK
200 Faces Kingston House, Birmingham & Quayside Tower, Swindon UK
Bread & Roses Motorcade Flashparade - Part of the Bristol Biennale, Bristol UK
Miles Km Bussey Building, Peckham, London UK
Basement, The Regency Town House, Brighton UK
Not The Dead Spit, two person project with Sophie Barbber and Georgia Hayes, Niagara Falls Projects Brighton UK
Celestial Body, Spiritual Earth Joseph Long solo project, Niagara Falls Projects Brighton UK
Is this wet p*$$¥ remix no get enemy, nothing like this love that I’m feeling Irvin Pascal solo project, Niagara Falls Projects Brighton UK
E2 - E4 Jacob Clayton solo project, Niagara Falls Projects Brighton UK
She Melissa Campbell solo project, Niagara Falls Projects Brighton UK
2018 - Review of ideal-i by Geoff Hands
2017 - Supplément à La Libre Belgique - N°25
2017 - Photoworks online showcase
2017 - Miniclick - Interview
2017 - Photography & issue #1
2016 - YET Magazine issue #10 Studying Photography by Joanna Lowry
2016 - Self Publish Be Happy - online feature
2016 - Mull It Over - Interview
2016 - Ardesia Projects - online feature
2016 - Ardesia Projects Annual - Essay by Benedetta Casagrande
2015 - Art Can't Change The World - collaboration with Dionysis Livanis
2015 - Photoworks MA graduates Showcase
2015 - Source Photographic Review
2015 - An Impossible Task: On James William Murray's Beheld by Seán Padriac Birnie
2015 - After Desire: essay by Joanna Lowry
Talks & Teaching
2017 - present Visiting lecturer on Fine Art BA at Hastings University Centre UK
2017 - After School Club artist talk at University of Brighton UK
2017 - Miniclick Photo Talks, Brighton UK
2016 - Alternative Perspectives artist talk at Towner Gallery. Eastbourne UK
2015 - 2016 - Coordinator of Unit 8 peer crit sessions. Brighton UK
Private collections UK, USA, BE, NL, FR
Hellenic Centre for Photography GR
SPBH artist book collection UK
2019 - Artist in Residence. Towner Gallery, Eastbourne UK
2018 - Sussex Open 18 Commission Award