“Murray captures the moors changing moods under glowering skies, often creating twilight or nocturnal impressions… We seem to be in a dream world as much as a real place, a staged and highly charged landscape of memory and the imagination.”
Martin Barnes, Senior Curator of Photographs, The Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Saddleworth is the result of a five-year creative journey by Matthew Murray, fuelled by his desire to build an extraordinary and entirely new body of work. This venture into the British landscape became an exploration, a personal study, almost becoming therapeutic to Murray, as he traversed his own private life changes.
What evolved and then became paramount to Murray’s exploration of these ever-changing scenes, was how photography translated the landscape. Here his manipulation of natural and artificial light challenged the representation of the traditional landscape through both photography and painting.
The result is a photographic odyssey, which captures not only the astonishing and beguiling beauty of this moorland landscape, but also the dramatic ephemeral changes caused by the season, or simply the hour that each image was taken.
“I wanted to produce a series of landscape photographs that I believed to be beautiful in their own right and by doing so hopefully challenge preconceived ideas about the moor. Documenting the moors landscape as picturesque and beautiful, concentrating on light composition and nature reveals a true appreciation of the beauty of the moors, from wonderful long summer days to snow storms in the depth of winter. This is what Saddleworth says to me. Every trip I have taken to the Moors over the last five years has encapsulated each season, weather and cloud pattern, rain, sunshine, snow and the sense of the bitter cold of that emotive landscape.”
“My first couple of trips to Saddleworth Moor were dominated by the discomfort with its history, getting to know the area, getting a feel for the place, it is so vast it can almost swallow you up. But I quickly saw how amazing the landscape is and how the shadows and cloud formations can change quickly and drastically. It was only after viewing the very early contacts from my initial shoots that the photographs reminded me of the 17th Century Dutch painter Jacob Van Ruisdael, whose work I had seen at the Royal Academy of Arts, London in 2006. Having never photographed a series of landscapes before this series, it was a massive departure from my normal portraiture and street photography work, the work developed overtime and was very organic. Shooting these landscapes it was clear that I was inspired by Ruisdael’s work.”
“Light composition and timing were the biggest considerations obviously, as an artist using photography I am interested in depicting the landscape through what I feel rather than what I see, ‘Exactitude is not truth’ said Henri Matisse. I photographed throughout the day and many times throughout the night. When shooting at night and early morning I would light the landscape with artificial lighting using external lights, torches, car headlights, manipulating and interacting with the landscape.”
Murray’s focus on light and texture reveals an appreciation of the beauty of the moors, from striking long summer days to snow storms in the depth of winter. In the series nature dominates and there is no evidence of human presence apart from the photographer’s approach.
- Quotes above taken from an interview with Matthew Murray 2017
About Matthew Murray:
Matthew Murray is a British photographic artist based in Birmingham, who develops personal projects for exhibition and publication; alongside his commercial work which he produces for high-end advertising campaigns and editorials. His ‘Saddleworth: Responding to a Landscape’ book published by Gallery Vassie Editions, which accompanies this exhibition will be Murray’s third publication. In 2013 his book ‘SKA’, was published by Schilt Publishing NL; a series of portraits focusing on the Ska subculture, examining hardcore followers who not only listen to the music but who are all-round passionate Ska Fans. In 2015 his book ‘Pleasure in Leisure’ was published by Cafe Royal Books, which documents the British during the summer months.
His commercial work is paralleled by an on-going flow of personal projects collected and developed from his everyday visual experiences and extensive travels. Murray has been the recipient of many photography awards and his work has been exhibited internationally including: Amsterdam, NL; Lianzhou, China; Arles, France and throughout the UK.
Please note that the book ‘Saddleworth: Responding to a Landscape’ published by Gallery Vassie Editions 2017 is available for purchase here priced at €50.00 – please ask for more information.