Ewan Murray @ Telfer Gallery, Glasgow

Review

Adam Benmakhlouf | 26 Apr 2017

Ewan Murray's Landscapes, People, Buildings is an insightful and sensitive collection of small paintings.

It’s probably because of the same economic compression that recurs throughout Ewan Murray’s Landscape, People, Buildings that it’s hard to keep in mind that there are only eight paintings that make up this high content, but small, show.

Each painting would fit well in any small to medium to living space, but nevertheless they manage to contain many rich moments of diverse material experimentation, suspense and lyrical moments. See Party, which fits 10 figures into 38x54cm. In it, there’s an example of a recurring strategy by Murray of muting colours, mostly mixing in order to allow for a small instance of pure tube colour. In Party it’s the yellow of dress in the light.

Though this is repeated in different ways across works, in each instance it resonates somewhat differently. In Party, it’s the unexpected stare at a seemingly off-centre figure. Then in Every Day, a bright triangle slices bands of landscape (blue on the bottom, then an earthy dark, topped with green and the sun in the sky – flecked with a little brown) seeming like the reflection of a window. The title Every Day could refer to the common suburban experience of groggily looking out onto reams of countryside into and back from the city.

As well as controlled colour, exposure of the substrate is another important formal means of making Murray’s familiar imagery surprising. In Opening, a thin permeated layer of brown is contrasted with an ark that is half brightest white, then darkest black. Soft transparency is punctuated by these two conjoined lines, within there’s a rapid rendering of foliage. These different speeds and textures balance a cool filling-in with scored lines and frenzied foliage.

Loose brushwork and simplification is throughout matched with formal ingenuity and careful observation, making for a combined sensitivity and sensuousness.