Joe is a figurative mixed-media artist, with an obsession with strong colour and mark-making. When painting he likes to build up layers of paint with paint brushes, hair brushes and sharp lines. With his digital or mixed-media work, he often uses a candy colour palette to deliver a sugar coated message or question.
"I'm interested in contrasts and layers, trying to understand and reveal what's underneath feelings and surfaces. I like to experiment and play with expectations, of myself and the viewer. When making artwork I'll collect images, or movie scenes, or bits of music or lyrics that sing out to me. Over time, I'll blend things together and find some kind of harmony that feels right. Often after a piece is made, I'll come to understand more of what the artwork means. And usually the meaning will deepen and change direction, pulling me down a different path to explore ideas that react or continue what was done previously."
Liverpool-based artist Joe Murtagh started drawing at a very young age. Inspired by Looney Tune cartoons, Joe used to watch them with his Dad then draw the characters to impress him. Delighted with his family’s response he continued to draw everything he saw, including family members, comics, album covers, television stars, movie stars, pop stars…...from then on Joe knew he wanted to be an artist. At college and university Joe enjoyed creating both 2D and 3D artwork, but specialized in sculpture on his Fine Art degree at Sunderland University. During that time Joe went on a three month exchange to KABK, The Royal Academy of Art in the Hague, and was taught how to model with clay and carve stone. On his return to the UK Joe continued to make figurative artwork with stone and also experimented with metal, welding metal rods into 3D drawings.
After graduating Joe made sculpture commissions and worked with the public on large sculpture projects with a local art collective. Joe then moved into teaching, teaching art to all ages in schools, a young offender prison and college. After attending a multimedia technology course at Liverpool University, Joe enjoyed learning new skills, making 3d animations, short films, websites and learning how to use Adobe photoshop and illustrator. Having worked as a web designer, fashion photo retoucher and graphic designer, Joe is now back to his first love…making art.
“I love to use colour and line, pushing them together so they vibrate. Often the colours I use give a vivid fantasy feel and challenge our expectations. I’m interested in the surface of things but also what’s going on underneath. Modern life and the power and allure of the media influence my artwork. The Skulls in my work are a focus on the living, they rarely represent death. They're more of an affirmation of life, and can represent our inner primal self. Plus I very much relate to the Buddhist way of explaining that without accepting Death, You can't fully appreciate life”