Whitehot Magazine

Nat Murray in China: A Painter’s Diary



I painted this during my recent residency stay in XuCun, ShanXi Province, China. It is based on a Chinese scroll painting of men tasting vinegar. It depicts  Kong Zi (Confucius), DaMo, and Lao Zi enjoying a vat of rice wine. I drank a lot of rice wine whilst staying in that tiny village, ended up knowing everyone in town by the time I left.

GOD IT'S GOOD TO BE ALIVE / 90x45cm / oil on wood panel / 2018

The title kind of explains this one. I've struggled with multiple sclerosis for the past few years, and my wife's family thought I was possessed by a ghost so I was exorcised in a temple through an 8 hour ordeal of prayer, fire, smoke etc. My apartment was also deemed haunted so we had to move in with her parents in the armpit of Taipei for a year. All of these events led to a depression, which I've climbed out of.

DOUBLE VISION / 100x90cm / oil on linen / 2016

I painted this around the time I was diagnosed with MS. One of the first symptoms I experienced was double vision, which made riding a bike through Taipei traffic risky. In the painting the arms are also weirdly elongated to represent how I was losing control of my hands - handwriting and drawing became shaky.

AUTOIMMUNITY / 100x90cm / oil on linen / 2016

Ok, this is the last one I'll show MS related. I was obsessed with researching everything I could about this disease at first, and learned that it was actually my own immune system attacking my nerves. This painting is based on Lucas Cranach the Elder's Hercules and Antaeus. Taiwan's healthcare system is one of the world's best. They gave me medicine to control my MS for free, which in the USA would be 52K per year.

SPLASH! / 100x90cm / oil on linen / 2017

When I'm feeling lazy, I indulge in shitty reality shows. One of my favorites is Naked and Afraid. A man and woman are dropped off in a tropical location without clothing and must survive 21 days somehow. In one of the episodes the woman got annoyed at the man and threw their only tool, a knife, into a river. I thought it was funny.

TWO VIRGOS / 90x100cm / oil on linen / 2019

I'm a virgo, and I've been told that I'm very critical of everything, which is supposedly a characteristic of virgos. This is a painting of a man and woman judging each other, on an empty desolate plain. I don't buy into astrology at all, I'm critical of it.

UNDER HER EYE / 80X80cm / oil on wood panel / 2018

I had Manet's Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe in the back of my mind when I painted this, but without the men. And a fire instead of a picnic.

PARTIES IN A SHANXI VILLAGE / 100x80cm / oil on linen / 2019

This is last one I painted in my residency in China. My stay coincided with a village fair and there was a Chinese opera every night, while another painter and I got loaded on rice wine. The figure in the painting is a character from one of the operas carrying two jugs of rice wine on a yoke. WM 


Whitehot writes about the best art in the world - founded by artist Noah Becker in 2005. 


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