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Accessible Fantasy: Rebecca Murphy

Some girls like ballet and embroidery and having their shoes tinted to match a handbag. Sydney artist Rebecca Murphy is not one of them. A passionate proponent of the lowbrow scene, Murphy’s paintings are visceral and unabashedly bold. Creeping it’s way out of LA and San Francisco in the 70s, the lowbrow world is one of tattoo art, cartoons and a bit of punk. Murphy doesn’t dismiss her girliness altogether, she just sends it over to the naughty side of the tracks for a visit from time to time. The result is art with a sense of humour and a bit of spunk.

Inaccessible and incomprehensible are words that have been used now and then when discussing installation, performance or fine art. Lowbrow aims for the opposite experience. Murphy feels that “art is about communication and expressing yourself. But if the audience doesn’t get it then, as an artist, you’ve missed the point.”

There is a strong community in Murphy’s art world, where the isolated artist painting alone in a fume-y garret is a myth. In this world, collectives and group exhibitions are the norm. Local artists like Murphy work hard at building those links and creating a stronger “scene” so that the creative-drift to Melbourne can be staved off. Exhibitions like Once Upon are part of that effort to strengthen and foster those Sydney-dwelling art-makers like Murphy; artists that want to continue enjoying the light and bright that is Sydney and not be forced to immigrate to cooler lands down south.

Once Upon is an exhibition focussed on the interpreting of fairy tales, and Murphy is excited to collaborate with her artistic compatriots for the exhibition. An interesting challenge for a devotee of the lowbrow scene you would think, but not so. Murphy also has a keen interest in Japanese mythology, and particularly the crisp bold lines of Japan’s most well known artist, Katsushika Hokusai (yes, you know it, the big dark waves with the curly whitecaps...). The fantastical is a world she’s very comfortable in and eager to examine.

But it’s not all the world of the supernatural. It was a sunny, early summer Saturday morning when I met Murphy at a very cosy bookstore cum cafĂ© at Cronulla Beach. After a heady cup of tea, she revealed her plan for the rest of the afternoon involved a scour of the local streets. It was council pickup day and a bounty awaited. Previous ventures have netted her a fire hose and an abandoned pair of crutches. The weird and the wonderful always find a way. Murphy calls herself a packrat but I suspect it’s curiosity more than anything, and the ability to see the world a little bit differently than the rest of us.

Rebecca Murphy

Once Upon is on tonight at Ambush Gallery, remember?

words: Kristen Hodges


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