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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Wil Murray, the interview part one

Howdy!

Finally catching up. If you'd like to listen while you read, click here. (stream it) [31:19 minutes, 30.1 MB]

Zeke: First of all, congratulations on getting shortlisted for the RBC Canadian Art prize.
Wil Murray: Yeah, man. Shit is going well.
Zeke: If I remember correctly, you had initially emailed me. Yours was the email that said, "I've just gotten turned down by someone else for the gazillionth time..."
Wil Murray: "Universally turned down." So you as the initial, "Yeah, we'll do the show." You've got a special place in my heart.
Zeke: No problem there. I just spoke with Zev. His show is starting the 25 of August. Tentatively going to the 2nd of October. I was talking with him. I suddenly decided I like this idea of six - week shows; you can take advantage of stuff. Then actually we don't have much of a choice. Let's hope that there are no holidays on that weekend of the 13th, 14th, 15th. And then I would like you to go either to the 27th of November or the 4th of December.
Wil Murray: 'Cause I'll probably have... the show in Vancouver is set to run in December, so as soon as I know from you.
Zeke: You've got a hectic fall.
Wil Murray: I got to Halifax for this RBC thing on the 6th of October. I go to Toronto for the 13th of September. They gave me a big huge travel budget to go to Toronto for three days!
Zeke: OK, are they giving you cash or are they waiting for receipts?
Wil Murray: Cash. They sent me checks.


Rats From Mice, 2005, 49"x36", Polyurethane, Foam, Metallic Pigment, Acrylic on Board

Zeke: Oh, very cool.
Wil Murray: They said, "If you can book it cheap, you can keep the difference." $750 to go to Halifax for one day. Granted I have to get a plane ticket for that. But for the Toronto one, I said to my girlfriend, "Wanna go to Toronto with me?"
Zeke: On one hand, nice to see they are supporting Canadian art. On the other, the flagrant use of money...'cause if you're getting $800 to go to Toronto for 3 days and $750 to go to Halifax for 1 imagine how much they're giving Mark Mayer to do the same thing.
Wil Murray: The perspective in this is - my mom - "Well, this means your art's good!" I'm like, "No, no. This means that the Royal Bank of Canada thinks that my art's" -
Zeke: No, it's not the RBC, it's -
Wil Murray: The jurors that they hire.
Zeke: Besides Mark Mayer, who were the jurors?
Wil Murray: Rene Blouin and... I haven't looked at the Eastern Canada ones. For Western Canada, I recognized more names. Guy Trepannier.
Zeke: OK, I recognize him. I really should have - why did you decide to enter the RBC competition? Especially given the track record of you getting turned down and having doors slammed in you face every which way.
Wil Murray: Truth be told, they had a really slick way of entering. 'Cause it's all internet stuff, so the work I had to do was minimal. I had jpegs of three paintings, which they wanted, then blocks of text. One was describe your process, and describe how your process is special, some shit like that. And I had enough text to cut and paste. And I hadn't entered, and I had lots of friends who did and one who won last year, John Eisler. He got the level that I'm at, finals. It was so easy to enter. It was at that same point where I came to talk to you, everyone's rejecting me, might as well apply for lots of stuff, what's the difference? Ten more rejection letters? [laughs]
Zeke: Had you ever applied before?
Wil Murray: No.
Zeke: Do you know any of the previous winners?
Wil Murray: Not the winners, no. Like I said, one finalist from last year...no, one of the winners...his name is Chris, I think he's from Calgary. I think it was two years ago. I know who he was. He went to school at the same time as me and he owns a furniture shop in Calgary, so I recognized his name.
Zeke: OK. Where's his career now?
Wil Murray: No idea. It's really funny, because all the painters that I know that I respect - I mean, John Eisler, and Patrick Lundeen, who was here as well - and both of them finalized last year. But it's so funny...keep painting for five years...you know how to move paint around. But whatever. They get 400 applicants. You get picked from that.
Zeke: OK. To use a nasty term where their career is and stuff like that. 'Cause although, right now you are reacting like, "Wow, this is wicked cool." This is one of my things how Canadian art doesn't get any respect. Now realizing that they've upped the prize money, so that the winner gets $25,000.
Wil Murray: The other two get $15,000.
Zeke: Uh huh. The winner of the Turner Prize gets $50,000. At which point you compare these, and there is no way that I'm thinking that any hope in hell of getting half the amount of publicity that the Turner Prize gets.
Wil Murray: No, it's true.
Zeke: And though, I do like seeing them change stuff and maybe they got a new PR firm doing stuff. That's why I say you know somebody who was finalist two years ago, where's their career now?
Wil Murray: Well, that's it. With John, he was already doing well. He already had representation, at least in Calgary, at the Paul Kuhn Gallery. And he's a friend of mine and one of my favorite painters. And he's on my list to call, to ask what to look out for. But if this was the only thing coming up in the fall, then it would be a radically different thing than this with two solo shows. I'd be a basket case about this more so if this was the only thing happening, my one big chance. 'Cause really I view it - 'cause this came after the show here and the one in Vancouver - this is a really nice way of promoting these two shows. Especially the one here with you, because it's still Eastern Canada. I can go to Toronto, Halifax, and if people ask, "Where can I see your work?" I can go, "Conveniently, there's this show."
Zeke: And it just so happens that Mark Mayer is likely to show up while all your stuff is up.
Wil Murray: Yeah, that's a fine irony - irony? Well, I don't know. But it's a fine coincidence. But this is not the biggest thing that's happening for me in the fall. This is one painting. And everyone is like, "Oh, this means that they really love your work." No, this means they really love that one painting.
Zeke: Which painting is it?
Wil Murray: Um, it's titled, "You're Lazy So Nothing Can Stop You From Sleeping." It's one I finished last November, so it will be a year old when it is shown.

You're Lazy So Nothing Can Stop You From Sleeping, by Wil Murray
You're Lazy So Nothing Can Stop You From Sleeping, by Wil Murray, 36"x52" Polyurethane on Board

Zeke: OK. How would you describe it?
Wil Murray: I know the dimensions: 36 x 52. Tall. Lengthwise. It's probably...it's the first big piece I did in Montreal. It was the biggest shift I made from working grid pattern composition to something that was more organic, where there is no masking and it's also really evident that it's as much subtractive sort of painting. Removal of paint as it is application of paint. There is lots of sections that are removed as there are sections that are added. And it was a long painting to do.
Zeke: How long did it take you?
Wil Murray: It was a three month painting.
Zeke: And how thick is it?
Wil Murray: Well, compared to very recent, 'cause I have the spray foam and the paintings are now 6 inches deep. It is a major piece, in my head, as far as my paintings go. Like I said, first big piece in Montreal. But also first one where I was reapplying sections, which stick out from the paintings. First one where I recognized -
Zeke: When you say reapply sections, you take stuff off and put it on somewhere else?
Wil Murray: Yes. The parts that I would remove would wind up getting throw onto a piece of plastic or on the floor or somewhere. And they become crumbled pieces of paint, basically, and then I just grab them and stick them back onto the painting. It's really evident, because it's partly covered by metallic pigment, so it shines. And it's also the first painting since I was here that I went back into high, high gloss.
Zeke: That's one of the things that I'm finding really weird. In the past three, four months, I've become very aware of how much high gloss painting is out there. And initially, when I was first seeing it I thought, "Wow, this is cool." And now it's just everyone and their mother is doing it. And I'm trying to figure out if this is flavor of the month, or is it that this actually makes them look good. And I've seen a bunch of things where, like with Peter Hoffer, he's got like six inches, it almost looks like painted glass on top of his painting. Just did not work. And then, going back to Philip Bottenberg's show, he had a show here, where at the time I was talking about how much gloss he had on and then realizing, in comparison, he's chintzy! Yes, I've still gotta work out how I feel about that, and what is actually driving it, and saying...like, people ask, "Is there a Montreal style?" I don't now because I haven't been to Toronto. But at least as far a I can tell everybody is using gloss. Although shiny stuff is cool.
Wil Murray: It also hides a lot of stuff [they laugh]. But also...and I'm certainly not the originator of high gloss painting, but as for a Montreal thing, I don't know any other painters, period.
Zeke: OK, I know a bunch who are using high gloss, and one thing that I did with Phillip, I now explain stuff like that with direct lighting on it, so that when you look at it there is this sort of glare that is coming at you that as you're moving around to view it the glare moves and becomes part of the painting.
Wil Murray: But they have that to - you would see that in contemporary periods. If you've ever seen that Riopelle, the big black one, it's always been something where the lighting on it has made me go "Ewww."
Zeke: But there, as far as the museum, they always miss -
Wil Murray: There are hot spots.
Zeke: Yeah, they miss the upper right hand corners, those are cold spots, and there are hot spots and so on. I have high hopes for the museum.
Wil Murray: Going and seeing that Riopelle, you can't help but look at that and start thinking about gloss. The way they lit it, every bump on that painting in those hot spots you can see. But it's also that if you see any high gloss paintings it's hard not to "Ohhh" and get excited about it. As you've seen, I've also tried to do matte stuff, and I've loved the ones I've done like that, and it's always vacillating between.
Zeke: There, at least what I've seen, when you're taking about matte based stuff, and I realize, I don't thimk I've ever see matte based stuff.
Wil Murray: This is older stuff. This is pre - Montreal.
Zeke: I'm also thinking, like matte based stuff, like Janice's stuff that's over there, in terms of if you were to incorporate other media, dirt, sand, something like that that then gives a texture, because I've commented about how I'm not a big fan of your matte stuff.


Clara Bowes and Open Toes, 2005, 49"x19", Polyurethane, Metallic Pigment on Board

[people enter, they talk]
Zeke: However, the topic is your art. For the general public that will be reading this and hearing this, how did you actually get into art? And I think I probably asked this before. Now I'll have read this and to remember it.
Wil Murray: I think your question was how long have I been painting...?
Zeke: No, that was a different one.
Wil Murray: Umm, how did I get into art?
Zeke: Don't feel obligated to answer, you can say "pass."
Wil Murray: No, I'm reticent...into capital "A" Art? By going to art school.
Zeke: OK...
Wil Murray: No, I got into art school based on making shit. Painting and Art, that's two different questions, because I got into art school with no drawings or paintings in my portfolio. To get into art school it was photography and mail art and sound art. Those were the three things.
Zeke: There, you're gonna like Zev's stuff. You've looked at the pictures? And the text is sort of there? There is gonna be a phone number underneath each one. Call the phone number -
Wil Murray: That was the shit I loved. With art making that was the first stuff...I was sending razor blades through the mail, and freaking people out.
Zeke: But to get back to you. The how of you getting into art. You said you applied to art school and that your portfolio had been photography, sound art and stuff.
Wil Murray: Mail art.

End of Part One, if you'd like to read part two, click here.

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