April 27, 2010

Flagship Gallery Debuts With Christopher Murphy's Found Object Art

Amy Mercer  /  City Paper

One mans trash

Ernest Andrade, executive director of Charleston's Digital Corridor, believes there is a connection between technology and abstract art. He sees the white walls, glass doors, and big windows of his renovated office building on East Bay Street as the perfect place to display vibrant images of color and form. Motivated to support the art community, Andrade partnered with Olivia Pool of Art Pimp Consultants to create the Flagship Gallery.

At the Flagship Gallery, "artists are given an opportunity to showcase their work to high-end entrepreneurs in an upscale corporate environment, and business owners are graced with art on their walls. It's a win-win situation," says Pool.

The gallery will offer visual exhibitions that rotate every two months. "We want to serve the community and offer another venue for local artists to showcase their work," Andrade says.

Abstract artist Christopher Murphy is one of the first to show at the Flagship. "Murphy's work is perfect for the modern look of the gallery," says Pool. Murphy's mixed media conceptual paintings are created with found items like pages from a journal, nuts, bolts, ticket stubs, and grocery lists, covered with thick layers of acrylic paint.

Murphy says he was always attracted to conceptual and abstract art, but at times felt disconnected from the painting. "When I first began painting, my work was more about process and composition, amorphous shapes and bold colors," Murphy says. "Yet there was a distance, or a disconnection between my work and the viewer. I needed a way to express the human experience through my painting. I wanted to bring the humanity back into my work."

Murphy began incorporating mundane pieces from everyday life into his paintings and "started to feel connected again." The keepsake items take on different meaning in his paintings, inspiring the viewer to explore the work and investigate what the artist is trying to say.

In 2007, Murphy moved from Georgia to Charleston with his future wife after completing his master's in fine art at Georgia Southern University. Following the success of a debut show at SCOOP Studios in February, Murphy also teaches acrylic and mixed media classes at Redux Studios.

SCOOP's Colleen Keegan Deihl says, "Murphy's abstract paintings leave a lasting impression because the layers are revealed more and more over time. One client admits that her painting showed up in her dream just before she purchased it."

Recently, the artist's work has evolved and become more interactive. Using donated "bags full of stuff," Murphy creates a collaboration between his art and the viewer, a style he calls abstract portraiture. Most of the items have come from people he knows, but the work can also be commissioned. The finished painting is "less about me" and is a different experience each time.

While there is not always a specific story behind each painting, in "Lines of Communication," Murphy uses telephone wire, written text, and a phone jack to inspire viewers to think about how we are brought together and divided through modern communication devices. "Ancestor Worship" includes puzzle pieces, a drawing of a skeleton, and a light bulb. The tactile work collapses space between the viewer and art, calling for a closer inspection of the painting to discover the messages hidden within.

Thursday night is the official launch of the Flagship Gallery and the closing reception for Murphy's exhibit, which will remain on view through May 4. Upcoming featured artists include Fuzzco's Helen Rice followed by architect Johnny Tucker. It's a controlled access space, but the gallery is open to the public.