The New Vanguard – Artist Profile 10: MURRAY GAYLARD
Interview JUSTIN ROSS
Photography CHARLOTTE KRAUSS
Murray Gaylard is a Berlin-based artist originally from South Africa with a studio at the Kindl Brauerei in the creative epicenter for artists that is Neukölln.
Murray’s work walks a line between playful and serious, covering both personal and political topics with a whimsical approach to his conceptual art practice in diverse media. He manages to express sincerity and a genuine light-heartedness that he makes use of as a platform to expose intimate feelings such as exuberance, ego, isolation, and insecurity.
His work is bright and cheerful and at times even openly irreverent. Like open secrets, scribbled notes and self-confessions they divulge information about himself or observations about the world—the not-so-dark thoughts that we still for some reason often keep to ourselves.
He has just concluded an extremely successful solo show at Phillipp Pflug Contemporary, his gallery in Frankfurt, and we got the chance to meet up with him at his studio in Berlin.
Name: Murray Gaylard
Nationality: South Africa
Based in: Berlin
more: Murray Garland // Philipp Pflug Contemporary in Frankfurt
Murray is wearing RETROSUPERFUTURE T2F, RETROSUPERFUTURE JJG, COBLENS AUTOPILOT
Did you always know that you were going to be an artist?
No. When I was a boy, everyone thought I would become a writer. I have always loved language. But that is also evident in my work as a visual artist. I studied Industrial Psychology because it seemed like a realistic career choice. But I wasn’t made for the corporate world. I could never have somebody telling me what to do.
You are originally from South Africa but you have lived and worked in Frankfurt and now Berlin. What made you decide to study art in Germany?
I moved to Frankfurt for a man I met on the beach in Cape Town. He ended up being a real asshole, but, you know, I was here, so I stayed. I was married when I decided to study art. My husband and I—obviously not the asshole—were having a bit of a slump in our relationship, and so we decided to do something together that would feel like a mutual project. So we did a course at the Volkshochschule called “Malen für Unbegabte,” which translates as “painting for people with no talent.” It’s the first time I had picked up a paintbrush since primary school, and I feel like I never put it down again. My passion for art ended up killing my marriage. There was really only space for one or the other! I took a watercolor course with a girl who had studied at the Städelschule and she suggested I apply. So I did. And I got in. Which is crazy, considering I hadn’t thought of myself as an artist until that moment. I know this sounds all fluffy and unicorns, but it really felt like it was meant to be. It just lined up so effortlessly.
Do you find the artworld cutthroat and competitive, or is it also supportive and community-minded, or something in between?
That’s a difficult question, because obviously my artist friends are supportive, and many of the curators I know are really amazing people. But studying at the Städelschule made it very clear to me that it’s about success. The school is so small, so everyone knows who is exhibiting and who is not. I mean it’s an amazing institution, don’t get me wrong. But the students were mostly wankers. Lots of backstabbing and people who love your work in front of your face, gossiping about you behind your back. Unfortunately, this made me keep to myself a lot. I even made a piece about the pressure to succeed that is now in the MMK collection called “Look mom, I’m famous.” In it, I took interviews with famous artists in magazines like Frieze or Flash Art, and I tipp-exed out their answers, replacing them with my own—as if I were the artist being interviewed.
Identity and observation are two cornerstones of your work. Are you observing yourself or other people?
I think when you observe other people you are always observing yourself. You understand your filters and so better understand who you are.
Does art always need to be relevant? Is there a place for aesthetic indulgence, or do politics come into play in your motivation?
My work is always relevant and extremely socially critical. I grew up a queer, feminine, white boy in a small town in the Apartheid South Africa. It would be impossible for my work to not touch on relevant social themes. I do, however, have a sneaky passion that comes up every now and then where I just paint something beautiful. But I keep it to myself really. My best friend, Romano, always laughs when I start doing abstract paintings. He’s like “not again!” No. The last thing the world needs is another beautiful painting. Someone’s living room might need it, but not the world. I think that if I had to paint large abstract canvases they would probably be good. But it would be irresponsible to invest my time in something purely aesthetic. I have a lot more in me than that.
What is next for you, an immediately upcoming project or chance to see your work?
Currently, I am working on a show that will open on the fourth of October, at the Gräflicher Park in Bad Driburg. I have a talking street lamp that pays you a compliment when you walk under it. It will be installed in the park, and will be in good company, with Michael Sailsdorfer and Jeppe Hein as neighbors. I will also be showing a series of collages, which I am very excited about. When Annabelle Countess von Oeynhausen-Sierstorpff—who is organising the show—first started speaking about installing the lamp, she mentioned that she had lots of old etchings that she didn’t know what to do with and whether I could use them somehow. Some of them are three hundred years old. It’s been an incredible experience to take them out of their old frames and work on them. I’ve completely pimped these old, heavy, biblical and daunting prints into a commentary on contemporary culture. I can’t wait to show them.
Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time, or what is a dream project you would love to work on?
Honestly, if I don’t have a solo show at the Tate Modern by then, I’ll be dropping acid and sipping Pina Coladas on a tropical beach somewhere. An artist really only has so much patience!