Hannah Murgatroyd (b.1976) is a painter whose work is underpinned by drawing and writing, shaping an open narrative of association. Her images move through seasons, mise-en-scène and emotions, led by a cast of male and female protagonists who spring from a personal vision of the figure as told through the history of art, popular culture and a life lived. Representation here opens a window on to a version of the world, one bodily charged, eroticised and engaged deeply with surface.
The first London show of Murgatroyd's paintings was in 2018 in the group survey 'Women Can’t Paint' at Turps & ASC Galleries, curated by Marcus Harvey. Recent group shows include Our Souls to Keep at Field Projects, NYC, curated by Lissa Rivera from the Museum of Sex. She is featured in the Anomie Review of Contemporary British Painting (Casemate Publishing, 2018) for her solo show, 'Landscape As A Peopled World', at Exeter Phoenix in 2017. Hannah won the Exeter Contemporary Open in 2014, and is a graduate of the Royal College of Art.
The folkloric paintings of Murgatroyd are, above all else, tender. There is an Aesop-like quality in their narrative form and the character dynamics of their scenes. In light of their tenderness, the bodies and figures of the compositions take a formal backseat – their nudity and physicality is a footnote to the charged gestures that are performed. We see figures carrying one another, supporting and lifting, caressing, healing, foraging, bathing, sharing. Whilst the Arcadian landscapes of the paintings recall the sugar-sweetness of François Boucher and the Romanticism of the French Academy, Murgatroyd’s deft brushwork, economical draughtsmanship and Wagnerian theatricality, lends her work a seriousness that classical realism eschewed for fluffy idealism.
Her paintings, instead, feel considerably darker – nonetheless hopeful and moral – but they exist in times of significant social and political strife, where the notion of collective humanity that feels so bolstered by Murgatroyd’s characters is being eroded by toxic grips on power, the belief in the sovereignty and division of peoples and nations and the “rolling back of the clock” on gender equality. Murgatroyd’s paintings and drawings need not be read as direct critiques of such political-social inequity, however, situating her work – which centralises gender through the grand torsos and chests of her characters – in line with Arcadian visions of a collaborative, functional, natural community remains a tender vision of humanity, one possibly in its infancy as early man or even as a post-apocalyptic society; as a “society of lessons learned.”
A Raggedy Painting
Oil on canvas
120 x 100 cm
Oil on canvas
160 x 130 cm
Coloured pencil and gouache on prepared paper
30 x 40 cm
Conté on paper
56 x 38 cm
Oil on canvas
120 x 150 cm