Ruth Murray

My paintings are about the experiences of women and most of my paintings are of women in a scene. Sometimes I use these women to evoke feelings of alienation and paranoia, or to explore issues around one’s self-conception or social position. There is a tense feeling to some of these paintings, but I also look for the quiet beauty in mourning or isolation, so there can be a kind of languorous, contemplative aspect to them as well. I hope to load these scenes with more psychological content – in all of this I’m working against traditional depictions of women in nature and domestic settings, even if that makes them less comfortable than one would expect from a painting of a woman sitting in her front room. My paintings often deal with the constraining pressure imposed by external narratives. Such combinations don’t simply reduce to sexual politics, but rather one approach can refract and inhabit the other. It’s not a radical effect: more a gentle skewing. Sometimes it’s the slightest gesture that feels most significant.

I paint with a lot of detail – it’s the messy, chaotic quality of many organic, natural forms. At close range they dissolve into patterns and surfaces and can establish striking correspondences between trees, leaves, stones, waves. For my work in nature I’m interested in capturing the emotion and feeling of a place; the personal, primal human response to it. There exists a universal core in these personal experiences; that’s what I am trying to get at.

Ruth graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2008, and was the Derek Hill Scholar at the British School at Rome. Her notable exhibitions include Northern Stars at the A Foundation, Saatchi’s 4 New Sensations, The Creative Cities Collection at the Barbican and the BP Portrait Award. She was awarded an Elizabeth Greenshields grant in 2021, she won the Jackson’s Painting Prize in 2020 and she was shortlisted for the Contemporary British Painting Prize in 2019. Her work is in both private and public collections worldwide, including UNESCO’s Creative Cities Collection, and the Whitaker Museum.

Ruth has exhibited widely in Europe and the UK, with recent solo exhibitions including: Holding Time (w. Linda Hemmersbach) at Rogue Project Space, Manchester, 2023; Black Pond at The Old School Gallery, Alnmouth, 2022; Everything is Green at The Whitaker Museum, Rossendale, 2022; The Green Ray at Bankley Gallery, Manchester, 2021; Good Morning Midnight, Elysium Gallery, 2019.

artist’s website