Creative and passionate, Buenos Aires-based artist Murdock Allen is what you might call a traveling artist. He has already traveled the whole world and painted his works in the most unusual places in front of the viewer’s eyes. The art is always with him. Murdock is concerned with bringing creativity directly to the people and also involving them. His paintings are fantastic and show utopian worlds of tomorrow in an abstract, infantile and comic-like style.
Murdock originally comes from architecture and has worked in this field as an illustrator and graphic artist. The influences of buildings and architectural objects, of house floor plans or building designs are often found in his works. But interpreted with his own personal style. The forms are dismembered and recombined, partly with innovative ideas, partly with dreamy creations.
In an interview with the dedicated creative, we talked about his art, his projects and his mission. Murdock wants to convey positive impulses through his work and motivate people to deal creatively with the future. He regularly gives workshops and teaches at schools or universities, currently he is establishing an art space in the outskirts of Buenos Aires. The podcast is in English, below the conversation is also transcribed filled with countless beautiful paintings and artworks by Murdock.
It’s time for a nice artist interview and today I am speaking to MURDOCK ALLEN who is at the moment in Argentina in Buenos Aires. He is doing fabulous art and creates interesting paintings with chaotic patterns in kind of a puzzle style. And he will now tell us more about his art.
Hello here from Buenos Aires. At the moment I am staying at my mother’s home because when the pandemic started I couldn’t move anymore. And in the last years I was moving from Buenos Aires, which is the main city, to the other smaller towns inside the Buenos Aires province. This province is really very big. So now during these days sometimes I am working on my art and try to do these kind of exhibitions in the internet. And I am making artworks that people asked me to do as orders. But there are no more things and many projects stopped at the moment. I am waiting about what is going to happen.
So you are a travelling artist. You travel around and paint everywhere while you travel.
Yes, when I start to move I think the only thing that I can do as an artist is painting, because it is more simple. Everywhere you can find canvas or acryl or markers and other things for work. So for the street it is okay and that made me move to many places. As well to other countries. I lived five years in Granada in Spain. There I started normally to go to the street to do artworks. Then I used to do that as well in Madrid, in Amsterdam or in Frankfurt.
When I came back to Buenos Aires, you know, I am an architect from the start. In my country it is different on the street. You have to think about it before, because it is not the same when you are in your city and you go to the street. You have to think about, how you can present everywhere and when you are in another country with other people. Normally it is more simple or you have more excuses just to do that. So the first year back I was a little bit lost here in Buenos Aires and I then I bought a Christiania bike, that kind of trycicle. And I started to use this to move around inside the country. I went to other cities on the road with my paint and my work and I started to offer my doings everywhere I came to. I went to hospitals or to schools and there it is more simple not only to make paintings. I make as well sculptures, I make kind of workshops with students or with children. So I think that way here in Argentina for me it is more simple.
I have the word “movement” in mind and to have a “dynamic”. When I look at your paintings I can see there at many parts elements of being on the move.
Yes, it is like that. When it comes about matters of art from another place, like I said I am an architect and I did many years illustrations for architects, so for me those things are in a very simple concept and my idea of a normal city is more in a simple style. I don’t only think like a normal painter or artist, I am as well an architect illustrator. And of course the possibilities you have when you are moving around are different compared to if you only go to the street to paint or to a corner of a place. The only thing that you can really show is how you paint. But I am trying to move this in many ways with more vocation about the environment, about how is the world in this moment and maybe with my art and with my work, I can give more consciousness to the people who I meet everywhere when I move. In this moment it is very difficult, because you must stay in your place and in your country. You can only see a few people. In this moment all the things are more theoretical and stay in your mind.
Let’s get a bit more in detail about your art. When I look at your paintings it makes remember the time when I was a little child and when we had to go to the doctor there were always these little wooden puzzle pieces where you could pieces of animals or there were like a human body and you could put in the pieces like puzzle pieces. Your paintings have definitely a lot of playful elements.
In many ways that it real. Normally I know about art. You know, about the art in the museums and about the artists. Real artists like Picasso, that kind of art. When I start to work in front of the people on the street, you have many painters on the street. Some get some money, others get a lot of money. And I really try to think that I want to keep the attention of all the people. The people who walk everywhere on the street, the people who know about art and also the people who have no concept about art. The ones who just stop and see something because they think it is nice. Lots of minds. It reminds me when I was a child, what you said about your childhood. You are not the first who told me that. I remember know someone in Frankfurt. One day I was painting a horrible monster which is taking all of the land and to take the oil and the petroleum and coal from the mountains, just all the resources. And this man said: “But this monster, it looks friendly. Like a kids puppet.”
I think it is kind of part of what I try to get the attention. Because every time for example when I think about the environment, I think you can be completely pessimistic about what is going to happen and where we are going. But we must think that all the things that happen are happening now. We must try, even if it is horrible, but we must try to get something about it in the moment. We must think, maybe the train is horrible for the land, but at the same time the train is a huge development. We must use and think about what we can do with the rails and with the train structure. We must think about what we can do, and not only think, oh that’s bad. Or even make a war about that. In this moment, this is the position I am taking with all the things. Here in Buenos Aires I was working at the places in the same way. I try to show messages like not making war about agriculture or chemics or resources and all those things. I try to think that this moment we live now, that this is the reality. We have it. And we have to think about what we can do. And without taking anything. I couldn’t get into an argument about that.
I remember one day in Frankfurt, there was a man very angry. There I painted normally at the Hauptwache in the center at Kaiser Street. There are many junkies as well in that area. And one day a man came, he was completely angry and he said: “You paint horrible things, but you put color on it. Are you happy about that?” I think it is a kind of way to see something positive in the middle of things that maybe are not good. My interpretation is, that it is maybe what the people need. Every time I think everywhere you go, for example to an occupied house or to any horrible place, all the people have a little picture or a photograph or a drawing. And my idea was to paint for the people in the street. I am not painting for art galleries or that kind.
You messages and artworks have an higher aim than just to get sold. What you do is an expression of yourself and you want to give impulses. You do this with your paintings, but as well you give workshops, you try to teach younger people, you do projects in your environment and you do this with the people you meet.
Yes, I started to make more connections when I came back to Buenos Aires. I was moving for about one year with the trycicle around all of the Buenos Aires province. I started to get in contact with small towns, which have all the possibilities of development. You have the land to have your tomatoes or your chicken and your food. But they are all going to the supermarket to buy frozen chicken. The same as me in a big city. I started to see that and thought it is not good. Because the connection they have with their environment around the town is very poor. The same as me in a metropolis like Buenos Aires, there is no land to plant tomatoes.
I started to work more with this kind of message and line between art and architecture. It was more in the kind of theory and about teaching. Not like working on infrastructure, making concepts for houses or perm culture architecture and that kind of things. I did little projects with other groups and participants. You know, when you move around and are on the road, you meet people everywhere. And when this pandemic started I tried to give them some informative seed about nature and green environment. I believe especially in this moment right now it is very important to give things like that. There is also the idea to have a bigger project somewhere in the Buenos Aires province.
Very nice, I really appreciate your work and what you do for your surrounding and for the neighborhoods and other people. Let’s get a bit more in detail about your art and let’s speak about the techniques you use. It is color on canvas what you do mostly. What kind of paint and colors do you use? And do you only paint on canvas or as well on wood or other objects?
It is not important for me where I work. I can do it on paper, just on normal paper or carton. As well I paint on canvas. I think it is a good idea for humanity to use the acryl paint. This you can just use everywhere. I use as well other things, many other things. Sometimes I just use trash and garbage and paint it. One of my brothers is carpenter, so sometimes I get from him some pieces of wood and all the things he doesn’t use anymore. When I lived in Frankfurt I started to use also acryl markers. I think for my kind of work they are perfect. Also I use ink sometimes for my artworks and all the kind of special pens which architects are using. There I have two types, sometimes you need a thin one for the details and the lines. I found this as a perfect tool for doing the details with ink. You can put it everywhere and it doesn’t move anymore around on the painting, it just sticks immediately. So I have the architect pens, the markers and then normal acrylic paint, which I use with brushes.
So you have brushes and pens. But do you also use some kind of airbrush or spray cans or stuff like that?
Airbrush I use when I work as illustrator. Yes, I do. But when you are moving around you have no chance to take bigger instruments. I also work in the streets of Buenos Aires. There I move with my artworks and my canvas and do little exhibitions in the street. And every time as well I am working there in front of people. So I don’t really have the possibilities to use airbrush in those occasions. But I use it sometimes in the atelier. When I work on the street I have a lot of different brushes and markers, then I have a lot of very big markers and also big brushes. So not only the small tools. I think because I am coming from architecture, the little lines and details are very important for me. Usually I do the basic drawing very clearly. That’s why I use not a lot of bright colors for that.
How about your painting technique. I am watching your artworks at the moment and I scroll around your social media. I am looking on this one and on that one, but each one gives me the idea that it is kind of a riddle. You know, the feeling there is something in it which I have to solve. For example this one artwork with the beach or the other one with the zeppelin flying objects. There is the painting with normal structures and normal sizes, but then there is a part which is just out of order. The color are always bright like in a comic style. It is not that one color is fading into another color. Blue stays with the blue and red stays with the red. Your creations have kind of a strange disorder which is just fascinating.
Yes, that’s right. When I started painting, of course I tried a lot. When you paint a mountain or a fish, you try to use the colors which are appropriate and I do it like an illustrator. First the yellow, then the blue and ocher and so on. There I have canvases which are looking more like a painting. But I think with the acryl, which is very plastic, there you stay within in the color patterns. The green is green and the red is red. Every time I see that I start making a composition of imagines and when I start to paint it, every time I start to divide the things. In the same painting you can see several different ways of how to see some objects. I started to put on these flying objects, which are a mixture of kind of zeppelins and bicycles and also even sheep. When you look at it you actually don’t really know what it is. In some way it is also futuristic and utopia. The reality is all the time going and going, there is always development. And it is like that on my paintings.
For example some years ago before the pandemic you only see Chinese or Korean people wearing those masks on their faces. And now everybody is wearing them, it is even normal now and people started wearing them like a tie or like their shoes. The people do it like fashion and you can buy masks from Nike or other brands. I think it is completely crazy how this develops and I show such ideas on my paintings as well. Like a bike that can fly like a zeppelin. Who knows what will come, maybe in 20 years that’s the way how we move around. I am playing with those kind of things and with the ideas that come in mind of all the people. Maybe you also think about such ideas, each one have some ideas.
I think because of what I said before about the “movement” and how I can see that in all your artworks, as well your style shows something fluid and there is a dynamic in it. I think you are a future thinker. Like you look into the future, into fantastic futuristic ideas and the concepts about it, and then you put this in your paintings, you add everywhere little parts of utopia.
Yes, I like to do that. I taught for many years at university about architecture history. And every time I thought what is about the future? Every time when you are in the moment and you are looking on all the objects and thinks, you could also look on it with a view into the future. Every time when I paint and work, I just do that. I take my reality and add many things and ideas which I have about the future. Yes, it is utopic and I add it to the composition. Especially in this moment when you think about the environment or about the future of life, you have to be utopic. You can see this on all my artworks, because it just comes when I was working and I put in those ideas. Every time when I paint there come this things up in my mind. For example what about just using plastic for those kind of things. Once I tried to make a big cow with trash. Maybe you know the artist Jeff Koons who makes those dogs with balloons. I was thinking of a kind of cow, but made out of trash. And you can look on it from below and fro above, from all around it, and it is a cow, but all over made out of trash.
I don’t know to say if it is political, but you combine messages and I think this is actually a way how art can help. Art can help in many different ways. Art can be therapeutically and it was always a place and medium for putting in messages and waking up other people.
Yes, I completely agree with that. I try at first just to make my art about a way of life. And then I take it everywhere. Around two month ago I was working in several environment projects, but every time when I went there, I also took my art with me. I didn’t sayd we have to do an analysis now or discuss something theoretically.
This is your way and your method. Like an instrument or positive weapon.
Yes, it is. It is giving me and others a lot. Now at the moment I think it is okay. During the first year when I came back again to Buenos Aires, I had some kind of problems. At first the others didn’t know who I am and what I do. As well I had to figure out. Who are you and what are you doing? Are you more architect or more painter or what are you? When you work in those different fields than you have those two kind of techniques. Or even more. As well the message about the environment and the important things. When I started to see that for me it is better to focus more on art I forgot about that struggle of combining all the skills. And I just started doing, I took the art just everywhere and it developed. When I go to a meeting about the environment, then I also take my art with me.
When I say “your weapon” I mean it as a metaphor. Like we are in a “war”, but the people like you and me, we are not fighting with armor, we are using different instruments to motivate and reach others. What you do is visual art, you paint and transport your messages this way. I do the writing and journalist stuff. There are others who do the same with music and others with theater. But we all in some try to give positive and creative impulses to humanity with the aim to make them as well being creative. Because this is healthy, being creative is a good thing and actually the only way to get out of misery and solving problems. Be creative!
Yes, that’s right and I agree completely. I was lucky that I could learn a lot of things on the streets. I met many important and interesting people. More interesting than important. But they gave me the possibilities to develop. I learned what it is about my kind of work and how I can express my thinking in my work. I found in these paintings and in this art the possibilities to do it.
I think your art is really great, I like your style very much and also I have a lot of respect about your social work and what you do all around it. You are connecting people, you are teaching them and you give positive impulses. It is not only the paintings you do, it is as well everything you do in general. This is really nice and I appreciate it a lot. Thank you very much Murdock!
Yes, thank you very much as well. And thank you for this interview. At the moment we have problems everywhere on the world. It is not just South America. You see the world is really filled with problems. So thank you very much for this conversation.
How is it about the future, do you have any new plans or projects coming?
Yes, at the moment I am trying to develop in a small town in the Pampa in the middle of Argentina a kind of an art place. Similar to the Montez Art Space in Frankfurt. It is an old place where you can have drinks and it has a very strange name called “Pulperia”. The idea is to make it into a place for art, but by using all the things you have around. To change it creatively but without buying anything. I would just take stuff from everywhere around. This project I am working on and it is coming. It slowed down now with the pandemic, but the trash cow of ten meters is going to be a rarity. I think one day I am going to put those figures just everywhere.
That place will be a kind of art headquarter. Like a social place where people can meet, but as well there will be art, there are food and drinks and maybe also concerts. That’s great, you don’t only create art you create as well places where art can happen.
Yes, that’s the idea. I made friendship with the owner and the people who run the “Pulperia”. Maybe and hopefully in the next year I am going to have more projects like that.
We all hope that we can have more things like that. It is a difficult time at the moment and everywhere around the world. But art will never die and we just have to figure out new ways for the moment. I hope it will be better soon. For the end of your conversation what message would like to tell the other people out there? What you like to say to others who are also doing art? What is your advice?
Still keep on working, still have expectations for the future and never give up with your ideas and your utopias.
Artist: MURDOCK ALLEN
Photo Credits: Erwin Geier & Murdock Allen
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