Hi! My name’s Steve Murray, I’m an artist and mixed-media photographer based in Melbourne, Australia. I blend abstract and figurative medium-format photography with inks, watercolour and paint, exploring different kinds of surreal portraiture.
This series of watercolour portraits is my current project. I have photographed currently around 250 people for the series, all age groups, and from all walks of life. The vast majority were photographed at Rainbow Serpent festival earlier this year where I had set up a mini studio on a couple of the days. The idea is taken from the old Daguerreotypes, which when painted over have such a beautiful texture. I wanted to work in this same medium but instead of trying to recreate the colours in a scene, I prefer to abstract the colours and texture. The effect is achieved through photographing the models in black and white, very softly lit on a dappled canvass background. The colour and texture are then applied to the image through multiple layers of watercolours. Some browns and greys to give an old daguerreotype texture, others in bright colour.
I have been working on this series of abstract ink portraits for nearly two years now, periodically shooting with new models and dancers in the studio. I paint with inks onto milk in a special rig I have in the studio where the milk is backlit and the medium format camera hovers directly over the top. This allows for some interesting splashes of colour and texture. In some cases such as the mermaids, the inks can become part of the story, offering them a bubbling ocean to dive into. In other cases the splatters and swirls remind me of passions, emotions and dreams coursing through and all around our bodies. I find the sheen of the inverted skin tones makes the bodies look very statuesque and can lead the eye to appreciate the form rather than looking for detail in the face.
This series started from a piece called “Wet Dream”, where a girl is caught up in a dream of creatures coming up from beneath her sheets and pulling her down into a deep sea world of dreams. Collaborating with Sophie Windman, we have since started to make this into a small series, meant to reflect her abstract, fetishised dreamworld.