Sunday, November 13, 2005

Wil Murray, the interview part three


If you'd like to listen while you read, click here. [32:11 minutes, 30.9 MB] If you'd like to read/hear part one, click here. Part two, click here.

Zeke: There, I would just come back, at least from my perspective, my way of thinking, is obviously two separate ways, yours and mine, but I am, if you haven't figured it out, entirely individualistic, damn the torpedoes, "Fuck you, get out of my way." And one of the things is my endless fascination with wanting to be part of a group that is not saying it's bad, it's not something I can do. It's sort of like eating liver -
Wil Murray: No, but this is like -
Zeke: I'm not trying to be negative or pejorative, I'm just trying to understand.
Wil Murray: There is no place where I'm waling into a gallery saying, "I'm a New New painter" because I'm not comfortable with labeling myself that, I'm not comfortable at all...
Zeke: Then, what I come back with, if you really aren't then stop using the damn term.
Wil Murray: But I show you my paintings, they show you what I'm doing, and if you press me to show you what is behind them, I'll show you what I'm looking at. I don't know what else to show you.
Zeke: There, going back to actual history, I didn't ask to see where you were coming from, who you were looking at, where your paintings were coming from until you had said New New Paintings. Then I came back and asked, "What are these New New Paintings? Do you have anything that I can wrap my head around? That I can toss off to Jackie so that she can have a historical background." Had you said , "It's a Sam Sam Painting" then that question would have been nuked right from the start. And we would have had to come up with our own ways into the paintings.
Wil Murray: I can't believe that I am on my own in painting.
Zeke: Yes, you are.
Wil Murray: I am, but I'm not the first painter.
Zeke: You're not, but you're on your own...
Wil Murray: And I'm surrounded by stuff that I've looked and am influenced by. If I have to situate my self...no, it's more the minute I walk into a gallery you have to position yourself among something.
Zeke: That's old way of thinking.
Wil Murray: Yeah, well...
Zeke: Read the article [laughs].
Wil Murray: [laughs] What do you think art school teaches?
Zeke: You dropped out.
Wil Murray: It's still in my fucking head, you know.
Zeke: By the way, I think what I might do, in transcribing the interview, every time we say "New New Painting" make up some kind of term [too late! - Jackie].
Wil Murray: I would love that. I sucked up training at art school.
Zeke: You suck up training. That's fine. Picasso did not invent Cubism. However, it is not the sort of thing where he says, "I'm doing Cubism." No, he said, "My name is Picasso, this is what I'm doing."
Wil Murray: OK, but my choice is, in situating myself...ha ha ha.
Zeke: Don't situate yourself [they laugh]!
Wil Murray: Any time I've walked into a gallery I’ve had to situate myself, up 'til now.
Zeke: Don't. Oh, actually, hold on. you said up until now?
Wil Murray: I still am.
Zeke: Wait, no, no, no. I recognize "now" is now, but I would also imagine during the course of conversation you're thinking, "now." Was that three months ago? Two months ago?
Wil Murray: No, it is probably six months from now.
Zeke: Six months from now?
Wil Murray: Yeah, when I stop doing this.
Zeke: OK, that is contrary to what I was thinking, 'cause there I was thinking "now" of "Every time I walk into a gallery I'd situate myself up 'til now." I was thinking that was probably three or four months ago.
Wil Murray: Could be that too. I don't know.
Zeke: Because there, if it is a "now" that happened in the past, what has happened since you stopped situating yourself?
Wil Murray: That could be true as well. You know I don't think that hard about this shit.
Zeke: I do.
Wil Murray: I'm guided by what happens in the studio, and what makes me feel comfortable keeping on the studio, and some of those things are finding other painters in the world who are older than me...
Zeke: And there's no problem with that. Let me just repeat again: I am being aggressive, I'm not being negative, pejorative, or attacking. I'm just being aggressive.
Wil Murray: No, it's working my brain pretty fucking good.
Zeke: Then, to get on slightly softer ground - we can pick it up again later - you talk about stuff in the studio. What drives you in the studio? To now position my question, I find it fascinating, 'cause the stuff that you are doing I know I could do. You have more background, more history, more experience doing it. But it's basically pouring damn cans of paint, dribbling brushes? I can do that. Not the technical part of this, 'cause I can describe that myself even though I haven't seen you do a damn painting, where does it come from, as far as when it comes time to stop pouring the can? The "Let me slice here, let me inject the foam there." Where and how, what drives you in terms of making paintings? One thing - if I was doing the stuff that you've been doing I'd be taking those boards, getting big vats, dropping them in, pulling them out, letting that drip, doing another color. And then sort of twisting it and so on. My technique would be very much different from yours, though my guess is the end result would be somewhat similar. Yeah...probably too make the question precise - how did you developed your technique? what are the specific things about your technique that you like? Then, as the follow up, where would you like your technique to lead you?
Wil Murray: The things I like about my technique?
Zeke: Yeah, or how did you developed it?
Wil Murray: I started with monochromatic painting. they were tight assed, masked.
Zeke: Those are as easy as pie!
Wil Murray: No...
Zeke: But how difficult is it to do "Field of Fire"?
Wil Murray: No, those were fuck of lot easier than what I'm doing now.
Zeke: Uh huh.
Wil Murray: And it wasn't like two colors, three colors. That was so tight. With one color, you have to work really hard, and so I decided to work four times as hard to have more colors. I look at other painters and see what they did, and nick a few techniques here and there, but you don't really get to go to other painters studios and watch them paint. I would never ever let someone watch me paint.

Bank is Dead Eskimo, 2005, 12"x12", Polyurethane, Acrylic on Board

Zeke: Webcam it..
Wil Murray: Ugh.
Zeke: Hey, hold on a second. As an aside, there's all those porn webcams out there.
Wil Murray: Sure.
Zeke: How many art students out there who have an extra $5 a month. Put a webcam in, see me in my studio. $5 a month.
Wil Murray: No.
Zeke: OK.
Wil Murray: Right now, no.
Zeke: No problem, I just thought it's an interesting way to make money.
Wil Murray: Art porn. And so, you start working and you don't know what the hell you're doing. I could draw and I could paint, a little bit. I never actually took a painting course. But I suspected - and like you said, the realm of painting I’m pursuing you don't have to be a rocket scientist. I can draw, I can paint, and I have once or twice in the past couple years have painted something that looked like something else, successfully depth and all that sort of shit.
Zeke: You're better than me.
Wil Murray: Aside from that, that was the appeal, actually, that I didn't know what I was doing. No one else could correctly tell me how to do what I was doing so I was left alone. and that is...the solitude of paint, and the solitary aspect of it keeps me painting. I paint everyday so that I can come in the studio the next day and paint again.
Zeke: To focus a little bit....
Wil Murray: Sorry.
Zeke: That's OK. I'm looking more technique.
Wil Murray: Technique. I...you have to move paint around somehow. Although it does a good job on its own.
Zeke: You just started with the foam injection. Where did that idea of the foam injection come from? How did you recognize that that is good or, inversely, bad, so you're not doing it anymore?
Wil Murray: Well, the foam injection, specifically, was that because I put a lot of paint on all the paintings, was that all of them as I set them up, so they were sitting as they would on a wall, paint would collect in certain areas and bubble. That's the month after you finish a painting. Then seeing that and saying, "Well, how could I have a bubble earlier on?"
Zeke: Where'd that thought - that you want the bubble earlier on - come from?
Wil Murray: 'Cause the bubbles are gonna be there anyway, at the end. it's kind of saying, not "I want to control this," but "can I? Is there a way?" And then there’s a whole other realm of this that's about these paint bubbles mean a lot of paint and a lot of weight. Is there a way I can get a bigger bubble?
Zeke: That's where I'm going in terms of with you suddenly saying, "I can see that there are bubbles developing." Then you took a step back, "Can I control the bubbles?" As opposed to previous, these were just random happenstance, because that's what you were doing.
Wil Murray: But I would say that that was a six - month process. It was a six - month process of seeing these bubbles come up. And the first step was trying to work towards how do I...can I dictate where the bubbles go? I realized I couldn't.
Zeke: But then, from the real crux of my question, is: screw the foam and the bubbles. Where, as I said earlier, I can do what you do, but there really is a technique to it, and how did you recognize it was working? There are certain effects, certain techniques that you use that are repeated over and over again. How did you identify those as, "that works, that's what I want"? And I imagine there are other ones where, "oh, jeez. That looks sucky. Let me slice that off because I don't like it. Oh, that looks cool." How do you identify those, 'cause that's where I would see how you developed your technique, recognizing what turns your crank, what looks good to your eye versus what doesn't look good to your eye, isn't what you expected. 'Cause now I'd say that you're going into an MDF board with a preconceived idea in your head of what it's gonna look like. You know what you're experimenting and trying with.
Wil Murray: I know the range.
Zeke: When did your studio burn down?
Wil Murray: Two years ago Sunday.
Zeke: And that was the studio you were doing grid - based stuff?
Wil Murray: More so, yeah.
Zeke: At which point, first time you stop doing the grid - based stuff, you had no clue. If the range is this large now of what is going to be the end result of your painting, back when you started the range was this large.
Wil Murray: Yeah, but the thing I'd say to that is when you're dealing with...color alone...two colors, I have no idea. Six colors, however many colors, I have no idea how many colors are on a painting, I can't hold that in my head. I can't...
Zeke: No, but you can...that's why I keep coming back to technique. In terms of you do know how the paint works. I'm not talking about colors. and I don't think, actually, when I asked you to describe painting we didn't even get into colors.
Wil Murray: What I'm trying to say is I know a certain amount about my materials. I don’t know it all.
Zeke: As time has progressed, you are knowing more and more.
Wil Murray: Absolutely.
Zeke: And it is a very - it's not a learning curve like that [sharp angle], it's a learning curve like that [gentle slope]. Whoever transcribes that figure out my hand gestures. To come back, yeah, your paintings are extremely colorful. But if you notice, we have not mentioned color at all in this thing.
Wil Murray: That's true, OK.
Zeke: It is the technique. You look at them, pretend there all just factored out monochromatically.
Wil Murray: I am still...I feel liken idiot against you half the time. I know my material at this point.
Zeke: You feel like an idiot in the studio. At which point, as you said, half the time. What is it that makes you realize the other half of the time "That's good."
Wil Murray: But I'm not conscious of that one.
Zeke: Hello, if you're able to precise it? OK, it could be 60/40, it could be 75/25, whatever. But still, there are certain times when you will see something, that then given me, given Jackie, given Veronica, given RBC, yeah, they all agree with you. At which point, that is what fascinates me. You take either one of these, Jean Francois' or James' and they're about as far apart from each other as possible. I can recognize the aesthetic beauty there in both of them. I'm fascinated - especially from my position as a non artist - how do you recognize, in theory and in advance, that this is what you want to try, which is, if you're going for the beauty, because obviously there is stuff where you just don't want to make it look pretty, but saying, we're going for pretty, "This is what I want to go for." And then recognize, yes that's pretty, no that's not. Sorry for taking 45 minutes to get down to the damn question.
Wil Murray: No, that's fine. And forgive me, because I dodge out of these ones all the time.
Zeke: You're not dodging, I think I had difficulty getting it out.
Wil Murray: You're asking a really, really big question.
Zeke: Yeah.
Wil Murray: Yeah, like this is...
Zeke: However, you can bring it down to with in the context of your paintings and make it very small and easy. You look at "Brown Sugar" by the Rolling Stones. I have no idea what chord Keith Richards is playing but, yeah, OK, it works.
Wil Murray: The parts where I am able in the studio don't stick out.
Zeke: So then it's the parts that don't that stick out.
Wil Murray: Yeah.

Something Stays Awake While I Sleep, 2005, 22"x30", Polyurethane on Board

Zeke: So then flip it on its ass: how do you recognize the parts that don't? And then how do you get rid of them?
Wil Murray: It's not about getting rid of them. That's the big one is that if I walked into the studio...to plan...no, I do this. If I walk into the studio with a plan and I succeed at it there's no way the painting is finished at that point. Because it is the parts that are...that don't fit in to what at the beginning I wanted to do are important, those are the most important parts.
Zeke: Can you run that by me again?
Wil Murray: OK, so you set off on a painting, always, the first color, the first layer of paint that I put down is so thought through. So I always have an idea at the beginning, "I want it to be this." And usually it's from the last painting, something that happened in the last painting that was impossibly difficult, but you know it stuck. So, the next painting I start with that. And usually by the end of that painting, all of that is gone and covered up. And it's funny, because your hand slowly gets masterful at the things which initially were impossible or difficult. It's inevitable. But all the axis of control that exist in painting, what worked that one time or was an accident or misstep that turned "Holy shit, this is a brand new thing." You try another forty times and twenty of those times it worked and twenty of those times it didn't. And sometimes at the end of it, you know why, and sometimes there's still stuff in the paint that I use that I don't have any clue why. Sometimes it doesn't work, sometimes it does. And I still try it over and over again. But that's what keeps me painting. There's some things that I've kept because in my head they're very clear to me, and I could try to explain them to you, but there is some things that I can do in painting with my eyes closed at this point.
Zeke: You know, that effect you talked about, that circular sort of thing, I'm certain you could recreate that.
Wil Murray: I can recreate that, about those things I love and I hate.
Zeke: Well, yeah, it's the sort of thing when you've mastered the technique, at which point, "OK, let me go try something harder."
Wil Murray: Yeah. The funny one is six painting later, after you're disgusted by this, "Ah, I can do this every fucking time." Six paintings later, that thing becomes all the sudden exactly what is needed, or what you think is needed. Again, I'll lay that one flat and say you think that's what it needs, and sometimes you're right and it's like, "Oh, good old mark, I love that mark, that mark's so great!" And the next painting of course you want to do it again because it was so great in the last painting and so on. But it's that...it's know...it's my hand knowing what it can do in my head. But also that - and this is where I feel like my paintings are active participants - there is also a ton of factors that I don't even 'til after the fact consider, I mean, humidity and temperature that actually really intensely affect your painting, which I have no desire to control and I don't have the means to. And that's another one, my means to control some things is out of my hands, at this point. And now some things I am able to control which at one point I wasn't, and some other things - I mean, I buy different paint in Montreal than I did in Vancouver. I can't make the same red as I did in Vancouver because there was this amazing red that I picked from one company, and so you have to deal with that. And so, it's that stuff that keeps me coming to the studio everyday. I'm curious, and I'm still curious about this paint. people have said, "Oh, this will last for a couple years. Your curiosity will wane at some point." The more that I know with my hand, the more I know with my head, the more I realize there is also this, this, this, this.
Zeke: I can toss off six ideas like that, just stuff you can add in, and at which point -
Wil Murray: And this is what you're saying, "If I was doing what you're doing I'd have a vat and dip it in." In my head I can immediately go, "No, no, because of this, this, and this." I said - you know I'm working a construction job - I said to the guys, "Thank you for teaching me everything you have. I'm not gonna use any of this in painting in the next year." I know that. But six years from now, I don't know, I might have to build it. Any knowledge that I can get from outside of painting about building is valuable because. It's the exact same thing with spray foam. And spray foam has been running through my head for six months. But it terrified me because I don't know what to do with it.
Zeke: Wait 'til you start doing it with concrete.
Wil Murray: But this is also you overcome things, I'm fine with hanging my paintings at this point, I know how to hang them, they can be 100 lbs and I can still hang them. There is always this range within you can work. You're limited by your means and size. Right now, I can work up to 6 x 4 foot with how I'm building paintings. Should I come into a windfall in the future, I'll buy tools with which I can build paintings that are ten foot. And it's not that a 10 - foot painting is important because of whatever art history or something like that I'm curious about it. I mean, I love my paintings that are six foot by four foot, they do something that the small ones don't. I love my small ones but I can always make those. If I have a studio that's a closet, I can make the small paintings. But a part of me goes, "If I get money, we'll make some ten foot paintings."
Zeke: Don't be banking on it.
Wil Murray: No, you can't. and that's where it's not an imperative right now that I make ten foot paintings, but it's that if the means should come by...I'm curious about that. and shit, after that, once I make a ten - foot painting, I'll say "Ah, I'll make a 25 foot painting." and maybe I'll burn myself out, and say, "ah, 25 foot, too big, pull back." But I'm curious about painting, I want to know what spray foam will do underneath a painting. And that is more important than the aesthetic stuff I've worked up too on a painting up 'til that point. I'm more excited about experimentation than about consistency aesthetically. But remarkably there is a consistency aesthetically.
Zeke: So I've got tons more questions. I'd like to talk to you about the burning of the studio... However, it's about ten of six, so we're pushing an hour and a half.
Wil Murray: I gotta leave soon.
Zeke: It's about the limit of anybody's patience for transcribing too. I end all official interviews with: any questions you want me to ask, or any questions that you would like to ask me? ie anything that you'd like to get on record that will then get out to the world that you'd like to say about your stuff or anything you'd like to ask me?
Wil Murray: No. Seriously. I'll speak about my art when directed, but I don't...I don't feel the need is pressing right now.
Zeke: Doesn’t have to be pressing, but OK no problem..
Wil Murray: Sorry to flatly...
Zeke: No, that's fine. Thank you very much, this was fun.

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