Jan Murray, artist statement, 2016
Upon my arrival at PHASMID Studios in Marzahn, it was clear that the building was still very much a work in progress. I was the first and only resident at the studio complex and VCA’s Studio 5 had literally just been completed. The spacious light-filled studio with it’s 60’s Eastern bloc modernism – some would say brutalism – was architecturally unembellished, very minimally furnished with freshly painted white walls throughout and had newly installed, exposed plumbing as its only ornament.
As the first resident my purpose was twofold – to make my own work in the studio but also to furnish it and ‘make it more comfortable’. While I went about the latter task, I began painting trompe l’oeil representations of air vents grilles (sourced in Melbourne and in Berlin). In the context of the building and renovation work in progress around me, they struck me as totally appropriate subject matter – providing another kind of furnishing of the site.
Produced in pairs, these works function simultaneously as highly representational paintings of a range of different types of air vent or grille as well as simulacra of these rather generic and overlooked, almost invisible objects.
Installed in the studio, they create a subtle, yet insistent intervention in the space seemingly providing access to the internal architecture of the building – offering the illusion of ventilation holes in the walls. As one observer remarked, ‘the works function like ears – almost listening to the building.
Perhaps too, they operate metaphorically as eyes – allowing a glimpse into the past and the rich history embodied this building that has seen both Russian and Stasi occupation.
This residency is generously supported by a Special Study Program (Long), VCA & MCM Faculty Research Grant, the University of Melbourne.