Where Are You Now?

Joe Murtagh

Joe Murtagh

BA Fine Art 1987

Joe 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.

 “I’ve wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember, maybe since I was 2 or 3 years old.”

At college and university Joe enjoyed creating both 2D and 3D artwork, but specialised in sculpture on his Fine Art degree at the University of Sunderland.

“The University offered a solid traditional approach giving me the opportunity to learn, to see, to think and to make art. I enjoyed painting, but decided to take advantage of the great sculpture department where we had excellent support from the technicians.

“That’s where I learnt to sculpt, welding wire sculptures and carving stone.”

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.

“I remember lecturers used to tell us to forget everything that we’d previously learnt. At Sunderland we learnt again with fresh eyes. I remember the art scene being very strong in the North East, with plenty to see.”

After graduating Joe was spotted in the degree show book by an agency and was invited to propose a sculpture idea for a seven storey space in the Broadgate Complex in London. He won that commission whilst he was still living in Sunderland and the University let him use a space in the Art Department to help him get established with making the sculpture. He would then make sculpture commissions and worked with the public on large sculpture projects with a local art collective.

Since then the Sunderland alumnus has worked in the field of Art and Design as an art teacher and lecturer, photo re-toucher, web designer, graphic designer and artist. At the present he is working as a graphic designer but also as an artist producing artwork for Wishbone Publishing. 

“I feel like I’ve lived many lives and have tried many different careers. But I feel that my greatest achievement is where I am now: having a happy family life and being able to express myself through my artwork.”

Joe’s inspiration comes from art, film, music, nature, history, the media and how we as individuals fit with it all.

“I’m attracted to the process of making things that I haven’t seen before, or looking at things from a different angle. I go through different phases. At the moment I’m excited about moving to a new house and having my own studio space, so I can use my hands again to make art.”

London born Joe still has great memories of Sunderland and his time living in the City.

“I remember being shocked at how friendly people were. With moving up from London, Sunderland was a very welcoming place. I also loved the fact that everything was within walking distance, so the sea was never that far away. The nightlife was great too.

“The overriding memory is the quality of the lecturers, technicians and how supportive the Art Department was. I learnt so much there, and it pushed me in the right direction.” 

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