Local artist profile: Jessica Murtagh

May 15, 2022 BY

Distorted Jess Murtagh’s images are sometimes created by deliberately misusing her scanner and Photoshop. Photos: SUPPLIED

THIS week we speak with experimental mixed media artist Jessica Murtagh.


What initially motivated you to become an artist?

I have always enjoyed art and making art since I was young. I didn’t necessarily come from an artistic family, nor was there anyone in my life that influenced me into being creative.

The motivation came from my wonderful support system of family and art teachers, who always allowed me that freedom to express myself.


How would you describe your style?

In my younger years I was a perfectionist, trying so hard to follow the traditional art rules with painting and drawing. In my second year of university, I loosened up! This was when I started experimenting with non-art tools and playing with chance. Thermal paper and heating machines, like the microwave were allowed to create the marks and patterns for me.


You sometimes like to focus on repetition and the boundaries between analogue and digital media in your artworks. What draws you to this?

There is a sense of play that draws me to crossing the analogue and digital.

All my work starts out with something physical, a found object – like a picture from a book, or some sort of mark making from my thermal processes.

I have two ways of working with the digital, the first is through my scanner. Where I distort the image by moving it when the scanner is in motion.

The other digital process is through Photoshop, and creating a glitch effect by misusing the Photoshop tools.

These distortions are interesting and I never know what will be coming out the end, because I am leaving it up to the machine.

Murtagh says her art really came into its own when she “loosened up” in second year uni.


Which other artists inspire you and why?

A contemporary artist I’m inspired by would be Wade Guyton, and his work with the Epson printer. My favourite paintings are from his series where he created a black rectangle in Photoshop and printed the square over and over again until the ink ran out or the printer malfunctioned.

Another inspiration is Sonia Landy Sheridan, an American artist from the 70s. She was a pioneer of using non-art specific tools to generate imagery. She is my biggest inspiration for mixing art and technology.


What are some highlights or fond memories you have from your career so far?

The La Trobe Art Institute and University holds a lot of fond memories. From creating friendships with other artists, exhibiting in the Phyllis Palmer Gallery, and their opening nights.

Recently I completed an art residency program at the La Trobe Art Institute. I focused on creating purely digital work to take with me on my travels overseas.


How can people check out your work and, most importantly, purchase it?

I have an Instagram @jessica.murtagh and my website jessicamurtagh.org.

The best way to purchase any of my work would be to contact me directly through my email [email protected] to discuss the work I have.


What would you say to young regional aspiring artists who are thinking of making a go of the artistic life?

This may only resonate with a select few, but just enjoy making art. I spent so long, especially in my younger years trying to make my art perfect, and fit into one style. Once I started embracing my mistakes things started to flow, and I wasn’t so scared to try something new and evolve.