In her upcoming solo show this May, London artist Willow Murphy will celebrate the joy and power of colour as well as her own happy realisation that she could leave the world of tech and embrace her true passion for art.
Titled In Colour, the exhibition at her home and studio in Islington from 13 May reflects Willow's bold use of colour and lighthearted subject matter of everyday tranquil scenes and nostalgic moments. The uplifting works reflect the artist's interest in the positive impact visual arts can have on people, including herself.
After reading Art History at university, Willow spent a decade working in tech around the world before making the switch to a full-time artist at the end of 2021. "I come from a family of artists and musicians but my younger self craved a more stable and less uncertain career," she tells Creative Boom. "I also had this odd belief that a job should be serious and not nearly as fun as art. That, mixed with a bit of self-disbelief, led me to the tech world which in turn led me from London to San Francisco."
Willow loved her time in the States but always had a strong urge to create. For example, whilst in San Francisco, she co-created large-scale murals with a team of artists. It was lockdown that marked the turning point. "It changed so many things about how we think we can live, experience life and what we deem possible," she explains. "We adapt to whatever's thrown our way. Realising how flexible life can be sparked my shift to art."
It was this understanding, along with a lot of help from her coach, Antonio – who also happens to be her husband – that Willow realised her career as an artist could be a total flop or a total success. "But like most things, it's more likely to be a slow burn with many chances to change tack and make it work," she says. "Pursuing art also just felt so much more genuine to me than feigning interest in continuing a career in tech. It was and still is hard and scary though. Lots of uncertainty. But I'm ok with that, for now at least."
Looking through the body of work, we see how her time in San Francisco influenced her. For instance, her pastel California scenes are an ode to the work of the late Wayne Thiebaud, her love of Wes Anderson films and David Hockney's work. But Willow admits her style is hard to pin down. "I tend to shift between them depending on what I've seen or have been pondering. You'll find hints and references to the elements I admire most from my favourite artists woven throughout my work: Matisse's boldness and use of pattern, Thiebaud's exaggerated street perspectives and sense of movement, Wes Anderson's clean colours and element of surprise, Chagall's imagination and surrealism and Hockney's sense of fun.
"Sometimes I feel a pressure to synthesise all these styles into my own, totally 'unique' style. Though, to me, that would remove the fun of what I love about creating. I am inspired by others' creations and that's the core of my work. I know that through my own creative process, my artistic intervention is always going to be inevitable."
As for the use of an explosive colour palette, Willow believes it's partly because she's re-discovering what makes her happy but also her work reflects the world's relief at the return to normal. "It marks new beginnings," she explains, "a massive shift in career, summer is on its way and the world feels like it's coming back to life."
In Colour is made up of over 40 paintings, predominantly oil, and dozens of screenprints. It takes place from 13-15 May 2022 at the artist's home and studio in Islington. To find out more, visit www.willowmurphy.studio or follow her on Instagram.