Discovery Series: Interview with Tatyana Murray
Rhoni Blankenhorn for COMPANY
(October 10th, 2011) While most artists would say light is an important aspect of their work, Tatyana Murray takes this obsession a step further, and uses that elusive intangible as medium. Her delicate glass etchings of trees, leaves, skulls and bones, are coaxed from the dark with haunting LED lights to hover in a state between being and invisibility. Tatyana was born in London, and lives and works in New York city. She is currently working on a 18 pieces that have been commissioned from around the world, and in negotiations for solo shows in NYC, Miami and the Bahamas.
COMPANY: How did you get started as an artist?
Tatyana: I have been making art ever since I can remember. I started showing when I was in my mid 20s and realized that all I wanted to do was make art and with a little savings I dove right in. I spent one year practically living in my studio until I had a visit with the owner of I20 Gallery and at an young age of 25 was given my first solo show.
COMPANY: How would you describe your work to someone who’s never seen it?
Tatyana: My work is centered around light. My latest series is comprised of multiple layers of hand-etched glass, each one super-imposed onto the other. When lit up, light refracts off the markings to create a holographic, three dimensional effect. Through Ghost Trees, Animal and Human Skulls, I explore man's desire to control and harness nature.
COMPANY: What are your biggest inspirations right now?
Tatyana: Brothers Grimm fairy tales and Lord of the Flies. Right now I’m developing a new series on loss of innocence and human tribal behavior once put into challenging group environments set in nature. This is probably my most personal project to date because I am addressing experiences from the boarding schools I went to which were in the heart of the English country side where I spent most of my childhood and adolescent years. Fantasy and Imagination also play a dominant role.
COMPANY: Your work shifted from amorphous flower sculptures to haunting photos of bird skulls. Are there themes that have remained consistent throughout?
Tatyana: There is always an organic or nature aspect. Having just worked with representative themes of trees and skulls series, I am gravitating towards figures. I’ve always found a natural progression or development through the process of making work. When I got off the plane for the first time in New York some 15 years ago, I was struck by a piercing white/blue light. It was a seminal moment, and light has been a constant in my work ever since. With their matt pastel color, my candy flower sculptures take on a life of their own as light changes throughout the day. The embellished beads and metallic thread in my discarded cardboard series sparkle in dreamy underwater scenes. My most recent “Light series” focuses on light itself. Without light the etched image is invisible, and basically doesn't exist.
COMPANY: Do you have a favorite piece you’ve made, or body of work? Why, what does it mean to you?
Tatyana: I am always enamored with my most current body of work. If something else was my favorite, I would keep exploring what I have to say about it instead of moving on. This new and highly personal series I’m wrapped up in has been the same. But it's still in the explorative phase, and I might never show it. It's been an emotional ride for me, and has awakened childhood memories I hadn't addressed until now. It is urgent and invigorating.
COMPANY: How did you sell your first piece?
Tatyana: My friend Harry Blain, previous owner and director of Blains Fine Art, Haunch of Venison and currently Blain Southern, came to see my work during that intense first year in the studio. He loved my work and bought a red triptych on the spot. He is a very honest friend, and I appreciated his advice and encouragement, especially at that time. It was the confidence I needed and I haven't looked back since. I am self-taught, so the combination of being a woman and not having been to art school was a pretty challenging at times. I suppose my naivety allowed me to deal with the sharks in the art world without over thinking it.
COMPANY: What are your relationships like with collectors?
Tatyana: My relationships with the collectors vary. Some collectors are extremely private and like to deal solely with the gallery. I found that allot in Paris, they like everything to be discrete. However, I like to develop personal relationships with my collectors. When I'm not shut in my studio in deep exploration of a new series, they come to the studio, we go for coffee or lunch and talk about the art world, my work, do galleries and museums together. Most of my collectors have been extremely loyal as I hope I have been to them.
COMPANY: Would you like to always know where your work will end up before you finish a piece?
Tatyana: No. The creative process for me is so intuitive and organic that to start thinking where the work should be placed would hinder those magic moments of inspiration when the work talks to me.
COMPANY: What is the first thing you do when you get to your studio?
Tatyana: The first two minutes are crucial. I make sure I am present and clear headed before walking into the studio. They are the clarifying moments after I've had time away from the work to see what needs to be adjusted for the piece to sing. Or it's a sudden Eureka! - and I know not to touch it anymore. Declaring a piece finished is very scary because I know I can always do something more, but I take a deep breath and let it be. Then I get some clean water for my little companion Oscar, my mini Australian shepherd.