Sunday, November 13, 2005

Wil Murray, the interview part two


If you'd like to listen while you read, click here. [31:59 minutes, 30.7 MB] If you'd like to read/hear part one, click here.

Zeke: Still, why? That would be the crux of it. And if you want to parse it down more, there I'd say think about when did you realize you wanted you be an artist? And/ or what made you think to apply to art school? And/ or when did you make something that was not out of a kit and say, "Wow, that's cool."
Wil Murray: Leading up to art school, anything that I made...I was huge into industrial music, huge into industrial culture. And much of the art that I was making was carbon copies of...it was about shock art, sending razor blades through the mail, with "Good Luck." 'Cause music was, not my initial love, but it was...you don't grow up situating yourself as artist. You know, it's not like in high school there is Surrealists and Dadaists.
Zeke: Hello? If somebody keeps reading my thing in The Mirror, they will [laughs].
Wil Murray: Someday maybe, now it's Goths and Metal Heads. Music guided me into that stuff. Realizing and deciding was my last year of school, which is also the time that coincided with me deciding to leave art school. That's when painting kicked in as the thing that best suited how I wanted to make my art. And deciding to leave the art school environment to set up a studio. That was partly led by curiosity. 'Cause painters work at it everyday. I worked jobs always, and that's a product of my father owned a powder coating shop.
Zeke: A what shop?
Wil Murray: A powder coating shop. I worked labor jobs -
Zeke: Powder print?
Wil Murray: Powder coating.
Zeke: OK, powder coating.
Wil Murray: Which is a metal finishing process. I was thinking about this the other day, there is something...not stuck in my head, but there is something that happens to your head when you spend a whole day seeing 2 foot by 2 foot panels come out of a hot oven that are all one color, red or pink. And the materials that I use are drawn from that, the polyurethane is taken from that, we use that as touch up paint. And I discovered that I can get a lot of paint for cheap. And that guided that. That was the last year of art school when I started working with those materials, I worked with more the materials that I was used to from working industrial jobs or factory jobs. And I was also introduced to a ton of painting that sat at the fringes of what they were trying to teach me at art school. Because all the mail art and stuff that I did was conceptual, it wasn't developed. That's what I got into art school on, it was conceptual art. So it was a pairing of what I knew from outside of school, and just realizing there is people working - not just in a non - conceptual manner - but one were that wasn't the overriding goal. It was saying, "Yeah, I can give $3,000 a semester to school or I can spend $3,000 a semester on a studio." And I could always go back to school if I wanted to. And that's when...not to get serious about art, I didn't even know what it meant -
Zeke: OK, so if I understand correctly, when did you start thinking about art, you went to art school and weren't considering yourself an artist?
Wil Murray: Well, it's not that your not allowed to, but I certainly did not come into art school thinking I was an artist and this was a means to becoming a better artist. I remember sitting in this bar in Calgary talking to friends and I was weighing going to philosophy school or...basically, yeah, it was philosophy or art school, and I had more friends going to art school and it seemed like a shit load of more fun.
Zeke: Arguments are better in philosophy school.
Wil Murray: They probably were, but I probably would have left that after one year. I don't think I knew it then but I like building stuff, I like my hands being involved. And I have friends who went into English literature, went into philosophy. And the arguments between us were always...it was in their heads and for me it was in my hands. Some of the best arguments I have - I still have - with the same friends, and we butt heads over this, and the people I learn from the most is that. In art school, you're not taught that you are an artist. I don't wanna rail on art school, but the idea that is presented to you is that after four years you will be an artist. Which is incorrect in the sense that any one of the people there could have been an artist without going to art school, the other one is that the majority of people that finish those four years aren't artists, in the sense that they don't continue to work. Probably five people I know from art school are still working out of fifty or sixty.
Zeke: Although there, you can compare that to any other type of school program. You look at law school, and my guess would be, I don't know how many people graduated from your art school, but my guess would be that there is a similar fall off.
Wil Murray: It's understandable when you're there, and when you leave especially and go back and talk to your instructors, you realize that your instructors aren't that far away from you, in the sense that the minute you're applying for shows you're competing with them.
Zeke: That's only the Canadian way [laughs].
Wil Murray: That's the Canadian way. The minute that you leave school, you are in competition with your instructors.

New Tiger, 2005, 18"x24", Polyurethane on Board

Zeke: But there, it shouldn't be the sort of thing where the instructors have this much more experience and that there is a hierarchy. Canada has like flattened the whole damn landscape, which just annoys the damn hell out of me.
Wil Murray: Which the minute you realize that in art school, all of the sudden you can't count your teachers as authority in any way. Of course, there is always one or two who manage to squirm their way out of that.
Zeke: But there, I wouldn't say that it is so much - and this is me imposing my view on stuff because I wasn't there - but it is not so much that they are an authority figure, but someone that you respect, in the same way that a friend says, "No, you should be putting a little more red in there and slice that off." That's somebody who's opinion you respect, they're not an authority figure. You have professors who are like that as well.
Wil Murray: But the minute that anyone takes the position of being an authority figure all the sudden that's "Uhhh." But also, with art school, the inevitability is that at the end, no matter what your relationship to your instructor is, at the end of the semester, at the end of the week, at the end of the day, they put a mark on what you did.
Zeke: That's what I do on my blog.
Wil Murray: Yeah, but this is art school! [laughs]
Zeke: Hello, those are museum shows! [laughs]
Wil Murray: The reason I don't want to rail on art school is the longer that you're out of it, the less you think about it. I mean, I look at...
Zeke: Do you think that has anything to do with the specific art school you went to or do you feel that you can generalize across the board?
Wil Murray: The Alberta College of Art is a specific kind of art school and there are other ones in Canada which follow a similar kind of model, Emily Carr and certainly OCAD do. NSCAD I don't know, because they have Master's program as well, and automatically that shifts some things that go on. When it's a standalone art school, you're isolated. It's not like you have to eat in the cafeteria everyday with someone who's taking law. You're taught that since you're here, the standalone art school, that somehow you're special.
Zeke: Although there, if it's the sort of thing where you're talking about Ontario, Alberta, and Emily Carr, being from the outside -
Wil Murray: Geographically?
Zeke: No, not geographically. As far as my understanding of the hierarchy of art schools in Canada, there, Concordia and NSCAD are probably the best the two best. And then you have the rest. And - don't take this personally - but to be going to a second rate school, how much is the school, how much is the nature of the beast and you get piss poor teachers because it is a b level school.
Wil Murray: Don't think for a minute this is finest art school.
Zeke: Yeah, I got kicked out too and I still like to say -
Wil Murray: Yeah, the Alberta College of Art, occasionally there is this rumor that it was rated as the best art school in Canada. And I talked to people who went to Emily Carr, and they said, "We heard this thing that it was the best rated." the whole time I was there, there wasn't a president, no one wanted to be president. So, no one wants to run the place. Half the instructors I knew didn't want to have anymore than they had.
Zeke: OK, enough about school.
Wil Murray: Fuck school.
Zeke: There the thing that intrigues me the most is about your work is you've come into me with the designation "New New Painting." At which point, I think I’ve glommed onto what it is: taking the paint as the medium and using that in non - standard ways, i.e. no brushes, or sometimes brushes and palette knives. But basically stuff that is designed to be catchy. Abstract painting that uses a multiplicity of colors and techniques so as to engage the eye for engagement's sake.
Wil Murray: Yeah.
Zeke: Oh, Jesus.
Wil Murray: I was worried where you were going with that, but that's a good assessment.
Zeke: I didn't even go to art school.
Wil Murray: The best people didn't or dropped out.
Zeke: Come on, there's some good ones who went to art school.
Wil Murray: No, art school shmart school.
Zeke: Come on, Emily Carr is a good Canadian painter.
Wil Murray: Sure.
Zeke: She went to school.
Wil Murray: I...how do I rate Emily Carr?
Zeke: No, no, no. That's a joke.
Wil Murray: I gotta get used to your fucking jokes. New New Painting.
Zeke: So basically, my question is where the hell did that come from? How did you decide that after you're an artist, or before you're an artist, this is where I want to hang my hat?
Wil Murray: I still don't know if I hang my hat with them. It's really hard.
Zeke: There, to let you think for a bit, from brief things I've flipped through on the catalogue you gave, I can see similarities, in the same way I can see similarities between rugby and football. However, they, at least from what I've seen and that is minimal, theirs tends to flat, looking at basically contours, color combinations -
Wil Murray: It's very much rooted in one - shot paintings. Paintings you respond to as a whole, immediately.

Baby I Want to Buy You a Cadillac, 2005, 28"x25", Polyurethane, Fabric on Board

Zeke: Yours you do as well. I could, if there was one up here, I could give it a closer read, left to right. Anybody who knows the tricks of the trade and concentrates, can anything a close reading. Even, as you say, a one shot. But it is that -
Wil Murray: I would say, and this is the only place with some of the New New Painters - the exceptions, for me, Graham Peacock and Bruce Piermarini, both of them I follow their model more than the rest of the new new painters, simply because they seem to enjoy as much pleasing the eye as confusing it.. And not the rest simply seek to please the eye, but there is a lot of adoration of the hand...not beauty but refinement. This may just be an aesthetic difference, because certainly the way they work I feel a kinship to, all of them. The language they couch their work in I am consistently uncomfortable with. Most of that I chalk up to them being 50 years old, and the language they have to talk about the work I don't share. It rings a lot of bells for me. As soon as somebody talks about "their gift," as soon as someone talks about the spiritual ends in painting I back off from it. But, that being said, talk to me when I'm 50 and maybe they won't be uncomfortable words. I came to New New Painting...that's the same time I was talking about the school. Graham Peacock was teaching in Edmonton, and a friend who, though family, knew him and knew of his work, went and visited him, came back with bunch of catalogues and came back and went "Look at these." It was as inverse to what I was being taught in art school as something could be. It was the complete opposite. It was what wasn't supposed to exist. It was what was supposed to be abandoned in the 1960s with Clement Greenberg becoming a drunk you didn't want to listen to. This was supposed to be done. I was already painting at that point, doing monochromatic paintings, and doing my best to piss off everyone that I could by making stuff like that. And this was fuel to the fire. I took the position in art school of trying to find whatever I could to piss people off. Funny about that, eventually it became meaningful. It's kinda like listening to music ironically. If you buy a Poison album and play it enough times, as ironically as you love it eventually becomes meaningful because it was playing when something happened to you. And this is where I can't discount irony or shock, eventually it was, "Holy shit. I'm not just doing this to piss people off." Because I'm not doing it successfully enough, in my eyes...all of the sudden there was a gauge of my own desire to do something in this. They were a door that opened, and has continued to be there - I went and met Ken Moffatt recently. They've continued to be this other, this group of people that continues to paint in a way, and their success isn't monetary, their grouping isn't set, it is in some ways limping, and in some ways completely vital in every way. If you gauge in an art world standard it's completely limping, as a throwback, but if you gauge it as individual artists working in a certain way, they're making tons of paintings every year of their lives and getting this tiny bit of recognition.
Zeke: How much of what you’re doing is based on being able to identify and how much is "This is just the way that I work"? I look at myself and realize, "You're gonna be a group? I'm going the other way." It is nice to have, "I'm going the other way and there are people following me? Hmm, maybe." And I think you're the first artist who has shown here who has had a very tight name to the style of painting they do.
Wil Murray: Well, I would be completely uncomfortable counting myself as a New New Painter, and would shy away from ever doing that because while I've gained limited acceptance from a few members of it and from Ken, who's the critic...That being said, I'm least suspicious of that group of any.
Zeke: But it is the sort of thing where I'm just saying, "Oh, jeez, I gotta learn about this whole thing."
Wil Murray: No, this isn't a religion.
Zeke: No, I'm not saying it's a religion, but also recognize, with bands that play here, I'm much more facile in music industry terminology, and if you see a band and want to tell a friend about them, "Yeah, a little bit like The Byrds with some Neil Young throw in." It does not mean that they actually sound like that, but it does give something for someone to wrap their head around. "OK, so they're gonna be guitar based, three to four minute songs, vaguely politically aware, a little bit country, a little bit folk, they might rock out a little bit, but they're not gonna be..."
Wil Murray: But I would argue that one of the major differences would be if I say, "My painting is sort of like Jackson Pollock mixed with David Reed," immediately all the conceptual basis for Jackson Pollock and David Reed are assumed of my painting as well. Not just the physical appearance of that. Where if I say, "It sounds like the Rolling Stones" it doesn't mean that -
Zeke: There, that I would disagree with, because first of all I have no idea who the hell David Reed is. There I do know Jackson Pollock, they're sort of similar to Riopelle or Jackson Pollock...
Wil Murray: Or Molinari or Bourdeau.
Zeke: Um, no, I don’t see Molonari in you at all.
Wil Murray: But he's one of my favorite painters and a huge influence on my work.
Zeke: Hello? You go see the Rolling Stones tour -
Wil Murray: Absolutely.
Zeke: And you're not going to be listening to -
Wil Murray: You're Muddy Waters?
Zeke: Yeah. It is the sort of thing where you're saying in art - and yeah, come back to my whole thing in The Mirror this week is where, somebody says about your painting, "A little bit like Pollock and David Reed," and you're bam!, you're seeing that. And then upon seeing the images, the paintings themselves, then they're saying "No." I'm saying it's the exact opposite in that you just give them something,, in that right now, they're are no images here, at which point you say "A little bit like David Reed, a little bit like Pollock, with some Canadian Prairies thrown in." And, to me, saying that does not mean the person if they are conversant with who you are talking about - I still have no idea who David Reed is, I'll go look it up - it is the sort of thing where I think they're gonna take it more like "A little bit like The Byrds, a little bit like Neil Young." This is just a framework from within which to guide, and as any band it's up to them to say, "No, I don't want to be pigeon holed, we're something new, you've never heard stuff like us before." But for the great unwashed, the public, you need something so as to -
Wil Murray: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
Zeke: Are you doing landscapes or are you doing...?[laughs]
Wil Murray: The thing with the New New Painters is that I'm treading the backwaters of painting.
Zeke: Yeah, but to me it's the sort of thing by having even within the whole artistic cannon an obscure group, that's sort of like No Noise New York, when you talk about music. It's sort of like, "Oh, tell me about this." That I find very, very interesting on any number of levels. And, yeah, I think that's my point [laughs].
Wil Murray: Even with that, the past five years that's become very....people understand within music often if you refer to No Noise New York or No Wave it's a term people know now.

Zeke: Hold on a second, I was buying the damn records in 1978.
Wil Murray: I wasn't. I was born in 1978.
Zeke: I came this close to seeing James Chance.
Wil Murray: So I say New New Painting for the next five years, every I say New New Painting, New New Painting, New New Painting.
Zeke: Although there, to actually come up with a follow up question, given that from the little I've seen from hearing you saying there are small affiliations, what about Will Will Painting?
Wil Murray: This is with being 27 years old...no, until very recently feeling like "My painting's in my studio."
Zeke: It's your paintings.
Wil Murray: Sure, but also I'm not flying a flag. This isn't a way of painting that...
Zeke: No, I know that -
Wil Murray: I have no desire to market that.
Zeke: Hello, if you have no desire to market that why the hell you doing shows, why you applying to RBC competition?
Wil Murray: I have a desire to be painting as the thing that I do. I have no desire to market my process as something people should follow.
Zeke: Not something people should follow, that's not what I’m tossing off about Will Will Painting. More as an identifiable mark in terms of in the same way with the gallery, I joke about it with my friends in advertising, Zeke's is a brand. To a certain group of people they are aware of Zeke's just like they are Coca - Cola. To subsume myself - I think that's the fancy ass term - I'm an underground art gallery. Yes, if someone else imposes that on me, I can live with it. I’m not going out saying, "I run an underground art gallery."

I've Been Thinking 'bout the Wine We're Drinking, 2004, 12"x12", Polyurethane on Board

Wil Murray: But you said it right there.
Zeke: No, my term is it's a perpendicular gallery.
Wil Murray: No, you said it right there, you said I will take anything that anyone say about my painting and say, "Yeah, sure." I am completely uncomfortable with -
Zeke: There, as someone who has been a recipient of what you've said about your paintings, I wasn't the one who came up with New New Painting stuff. You told me, and I asked you, "What is this New New Painting? Can I see?" You brought the catalogue and so on. Now to play authority figure/professor stuff, next person who asks, tell them, "No, I'm doing Will Will Painting" and at which point give them the same spiel, word for word, but just change the term so that you separate yourself out, as opposed to saying, "I'm a part of this group though I'm not really part of the group." You got to do something to so as to say, "I'm different, however, if you really need an understanding check those out." Do you see the differences I'm talking about?
Wil Murray: I do, but it's not...I would really prefer to an outside voice placing me either within or without, not with New New Painting but with any type of art.
Zeke: That I disagree with. It's all gotta come from you. I'm the one out there with a loud speaker, touting you as the latest greatest, "This stuff is gonna blow your mind and change your life, make you happy, rich, and get you laid as well."
Wil Murray: But what I would say is -
Zeke: But there - sorry to interrupt - it is the sort of thing where if you're giving me words such as, I'm a New New Painting/ I’m similar to a New New Painting, then I'm just gonna end up parroting that. If you come back and say, "I'm a Sam Sam painter" at which point I’m using that term, and people come back and in the same way they ask, "What the hell's a New New painter?" they'll ask "What the hell's a Sam Sam painter?" Then take, whether it is lock, stock, and barrel, from some New New Painting catalogue, and saying, "This is a Sam Sam painter," it is only the people who know James Chance and the Blacks who are gonna be even aware. You can see those people from a mile away, at which point you won't be using that same description
Wil Murray: I put faith in...I'll show you my paintings, and they represent what I'm saying I'm saying about me, they are -

End of Part Two, if you'd like to read part three, click here.

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