Conor Murgatroyd’s paintings celebrate the multiculturalism of Britain today

The London-based painter talks us through his highly personal painting practice and a recent collaboration with Wavey Garms.

Date
17 September 2020
Reading Time
3 minute read

Based in London but originally from Bradford in West Yorkshire, Conor Murgatroyd’s painting practice is highly influenced by his background. Journeying down to the capital at 18 to study Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art, it’s his childhood in the North which consistently rings true in his work. Specifically, his experience living with his Nana in Crossflats. The people he met when he first came down to London also regularly make a feature, as do blooming floral arrangements (which are the backbone of his practice) in turn, injecting a pop of colour to his vibrant works.

“In a very crass and basic way,” he tells us, “when I’m describing my paintings to someone who hasn’t seen them, I use the ‘Magritte meets Bradford’ explanation.” It’s not an entirely accurate description of his work but does the job in introducing the basics. Certain styles and subjects have come and gone over time, but the work has always felt connected to its human subjects, whomever they may be.

Recalling the first time he realised he could be a painter, Conor explains at Leeds College of Art he had an “amazing tutor”, Duncan Mosley, who put the notion of being a painter in a completely new light. “Even I could be an artist,” Conor explains on this influence, “no matter what my background.” While Duncan his tutor used to be a football casual and turned to art in the 90s, in turn, Conor felt he could also be an artist, reflecting on personal themes which not only affect him but everyone on society.

Just like that, his work became pointedly personal. Irony and societal misconceptions peppered throughout his paintings as “back then,” adds Conor, “I had a lot to say in the sense of wanting to tell stories and remember people and place, and I still do.” Painting has become a way for him to express these ruminated feelings, a space to explore his thoughts and opinions and reflect it back on the canvas. Recently, he’s also grown in confidence when it comes to navigating the art world. A daunting prospect for many, Conor has managed to develop this skill, all while “celebrating [his] working class roots and combining it with an interest in history;” another prominent aspect of his work.

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Conor Murgatroyd: Smalltown Story (Copyright © Conor Murgatroyd, 2020)

Having recently moved into a new studio, Conor works there every day, creating a few pieces per week on average. It’s a therapeutic practice, helping the artist mentally while allowing himself to enjoy the day to day things further. And, with a substantial number of paintings under his belt to date, Conor works on both commercial and personal works. In a recent collaboration with Wavey Garms for example, he painted a series of works representing a distinct period of the UK. Though Conor and the fashion collective’s founder come opposite ends of the country, they teamed up to capture the essence of modern Britain using Conor’s unique perspective to artistically interpret found photographs.

“I am very romantic about the past and have always made paintings about that,” he adds on the collaboration, and combining this point of view with Wavey Garms’ strong sense of narrative, Conor delved into the different eras of his birth country, examining its political movements, cities, people, cultures and so on. In turn, pouring these references into a set of distinct paintings. Look closer at each art work and we can appreciate the timely atmosphere of Conor’s handiwork through the fashion choices, automobiles and interiors of the day.

“My favourite painting from this series if On The Bus,” he goes on say, “I don’t come from South London but scenes like this were also common up north in Bradford. The pebble dash bungalow with an old lady looking out the window to me, is an image that speaks volumes just as much as a Velasquez or Turner painting,” he finally goes on to say. “It’s an image he finds great comfort it, and hopes onlookers can also relate to the contemporary scape which fundamentally, “celebrates so much of the melting pot of our culture.”

GalleryConor Murgatroyd (Copyright © Conor Murgatroyd, 2020)

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Hackney 2000

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Mosch and Burberry

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Iona and Romy

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Grandmas of Chelsea

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My Cabinet

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On The Bus

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Window Sill

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Balkan Girl

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.

jo@itsnicethat.com

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