Marcelle Murdock’s Provocative Portraits

Up-and-coming talent Marcelle Murdock paints portraits of taboo issues in contemporary society. From realistic depictions of homosexuality, to provocative images of erotic fetishism, Murdock is keen on challenging people’s preconceptions. Her colorful representations of subculture lend her a rebellious streak that she is proud to flaunt.

Murdock met with us to discuss her vision of contemporary art, and what inspires her to continue her creative pursuits.

VAN (Vista Art Network): Your paintings have a very particular color palette. Is there a relationship between this and other aspects of your work?

Marcelle Murdock: I usually just choose colors that I find go well together. Recently, though, all my paintings have been [limited] to three or four colors. I like sticking to the three colors because I find they make things stick out more.

Can you tell us a little more in-depth about your creative process? How do you typically make each painting?

When I was younger, I used to use other [people’s] images to work from, but now that I’m starting to sell and expose my work, I want to make sure that it’s 100% authentic. I have a photography degree – I actually did that so that I can do studio shoots with models – and then I take the best pictures from those shoots. I Photoshop them a lot, play with the colors and the contrast, and after that I’ll transfer it on to canvas and just paint. I use the photos as reference.

We noticed that many of your paintings explore distinctly sexual themes. Why do you like to focus on this?

In the beginning, I tried painting a lot of different things and I found out that I only enjoyed painting a work with some sexuality or fetishism. I find it’s more my style; it’s more intense and it’s what I like doing. In the Jewish community, it’s taboo and maybe hidden a bit, so you might as well just get it out there.

Do you feel that there is a message in your work for the Jewish community or other people in general?

The message is just about being more open-minded and not making such a big deal out of [sexuality]. I don’t want my work to be vulgar either. I want people to be comfortable looking at it. Even people who normally wouldn’t buy this kind of painting, maybe they would feel comfortable putting that in their living room.

Do you feel that you occupy an anti-institutional stance within the Montreal art scene?

Absolutely, yes! Now, they are looking more for something ugly, something deformed, the kind of work that is very rough and not very precise or perfect. I know my aesthetics. I know my color palette. I want to do something different, even if it’s not what’s ‘in’ right now.

Are there any artists who you really look up to and who inspire your aesthetic?

There’s only one [artist] who I really look up to and admire: Gottfried Helnwein. He does post-WWII paintings because he was born in Austria, during a very depressing period to be a child. He does a lot of wounded children to put out that message. It’s hyperrealist. His talent is unbelievable and the message as well opens your mind to a different perspective.

At the Vista Art Network, we like to ask artists about their cultural heritage. How does your Jewish heritage, culturally or otherwise, influence your work?

I don’t know if that really influences my work at all. Yes, I am a Jewish woman and I’m proud of it, but I have no aspects of Judaism in my paintings. Maybe you could say that you wouldn’t expect what I do from a nice Jewish woman, and that [I’m] trying to push those boundaries. Especially within the community, I’ve had Chasidic men actually come up to me, looking at a girl naked, upside down in bondage and say: “This is amazing! You’re so talented.” I wasn’t even expecting that. It’s nice that I can open up some people’s eyes so that they can appreciate it as well.

To see more of Marcelle Murdock’s work, visit:

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1 Response to Marcelle Murdock’s Provocative Portraits

  1. Rachel L says:

    Very interesting piece!

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