Christopher Murphy: New American Paintings 2012 Reader’s Choice!

Congratulations to Christopher Murphy (NAP #103)! He has been selected by our blog readers as the winner of the 2012 New American Paintings Reader’s Choice Prize. Out of the twelve exceptional "Noteworthy" artists that appeared in New American Paintings over the past year, Murphy was your clear favorite. In addition to bragging rights, Blick Art Materials will provide Christopher with a $500 Gift Card for supplies.

Murphy is still in the running to receive our Annual Prize as well. In the next few weeks we will be putting together a panel of jurors to decide who will receive that honor.  The winner will receive $1,000 from New American Paintings and a $500 Gift Card from Blick Art Materials. Last year this honor went to William Betts. Keep checking the blog for details.

After the jump, learn more about Christopher Murphy, and see some of his amazing work.

Christopher Murphy

Christopher Murphy was born April 19, 1977, and grew up in Irvine, California.  He has been absorbed by art for as long as he can remember, and decided to attend Art Center College of Design where he earned his B.F.A. in 2002, graduating with the highest honor of distinction.  While earning his degree, he also studied independently with F. Scott Hess, Aaron Smith, and Alex Gross.  After graduating, Murphy had his first solo exhibition as a painter at Hunsaker/Schlesinger Gallery in 2003, and has also exhibited at Cal State Los Angeles and Creative Artists Agency’s (CAA) galleries, among others. His earliest and most lasting influences have been the painters Egon Schiele, Lucian Freud, and Antonio López García . He is currently represented by Lora Schlesinger Gallery.

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Christopher Murphy | Self Portrait as a Thug, Age Three, oil on panel, 30 x 23
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Christopher Murphy | Hoover Dam Fool, oil on panel, 24 x 36

When asked about his work, Murphy Notes:

Imagination playfully cavorts with authenticity to fabricate the essence of memory. It is at this intersection, between the poles of fiction and truth, that my current paintings and drawings are situated.  Issues of contrast, specifically of finding harmony between dissonant elements, have been a constant theme in my work.  I see my paintings as opportunities to explore the conceptual contrasts of reality versus illusory and permanence versus ephemeral as applied to memory.

I choose old family photographs (largely culled from my own family’s albums, but supplemented with a selection of found photos from estate sales and thrift stores) to serve as the basis for my work, because of their unique qualities of semi-permanence, staged semblance, and ostensible candidness.  In these photos, skies fade to pale yellows, skin tones sink, and details blur and grow fainter with time.  Sometimes, dated technology necessitated blank stares or static poses, caused colors to skew, or impacted the framing of an image. By either exaggerating or minimizing these characteristics, along with re-contextualizing figures and objects or dramatically re-staging the action of a photo, the divisions are obscured between the reality that existed at the moment of the photograph, the memories of that moment, and the possibilities of reality that are presented in my work.  The oil paintings further complicate these divisions through their slow and laborious attempt to address a transitory moment that was initially captured with an equally instantaneous (in its execution) technology.  What becomes of the snapshot if it requires months to take it? Additionally, there is interplay of tonal contrasts in these works, as humor flits around anger; solemnity is nudged by frivolity; absurdity pokes at earnestness.  This is akin to the gauzy, inchoate, often chaotic nature of memory.

Salvador Dalí likened memories to jewels, saying that it is always the false ones that look the most real, the most brilliant.  This begs the question: which ones do we value the most?  Or, is there even such a thing as “false” memory? With these paintings I endeavor to understand these questions.

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Christopher Murphy | Picking Teams Is Always So Stressful, oil on panel, 26 x 38Murphy_6 boy scout
Christopher Murphy | Wishing I Were a Boy Scout,  oil on panel, 21 x 17
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Christopher Murphy | Chomp,  oil on panel, 30 x 38

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