Ross Muir: “I find salvation in painting”

Ross Muir has come to art relatively late in his life, at age 30, first painting as a hobby. But it didn’t take long for his raw talent and ingenious creativity to show immediately.

His work focuses on modified replicas of famous artists and images. And in 2018, his original painting by Dutch impressionist Vincent van Gogh, titled Square Gogh, went viral within days.

We caught up with Ross ahead of his new solo show at Maddox Gallery.

Were you into art in school?

No – I didn’t like art in school. It all seemed so far away. I couldn’t see how I could have anything in common with Di Vinci or Vermeer. It’s something I try to address in my paintings now.

I create a bridge between past and present by adding an element to historical artwork that we can all relate to.

What were you doing before becoming an artist?

I had a hard time keeping a job. I did some IT work and worked on construction sites but nothing really seemed to fit.

I remember at that time I could always succeed in the creative aspects of any job given to me. I was good at making things and using my hands, so those jobs, I can say, helped me become an artist.

Tell us how you discovered art?

I was gifted an art set about ten years ago and became obsessed with it. I would paint at every opportunity I had. It means everything to me. Painting gave me a voice without having to say anything, which is very powerful.

When could you do it for a job?

About a year ago I knew for the first time that I could do it full time. I had been painting every moment I could, and my friend came to my house to see what I had done.

He sat me down and told me he thought I could do it professionally. That’s when I believed I could be an artist for a living.

What are your biggest artistic influences?

I love Rembrandt. I am inspired by his craftsmanship and the way he paints light and dark. I also like that he is seen as a bit rebellious, so I see myself in him a lot.

Who was the most difficult to imitate?

The hardest part is switching from one genre to another. Before I start painting an artwork inspired by an artist, I consume as much information as I can about them. I don’t just want to learn their style, but I want to get into their mindset.

If you could collect the work of any contemporary artist – regardless of market value – who would you choose and why?

I love Jean-Michel Basquiat. He was an underdog who had some tough times in life. I can understand that. His work is raw and authentic.

Tell us about ‘Jist Gogh Hame’?

During the pandemic, I was approached by a company specializing in billboard art. They had seen my work online and wanted me to create a piece to display around Glasgow.

I like all my artwork to come naturally, so it didn’t feel right to create an entirely new piece. I played around adding a word overlay to ‘Square Gogh’ – a painting that had gone viral just a year before. My friend suggested ‘Jist Gogh Hame’. People loved it and for the second time the work was shared on social media. I did a press release which helped raise money for food banks in Glasgow. It was good to know that I could help do good in a difficult time for so many people.

Then the Van Gogh Museum posted it – it was amazing to have it recognized by a group so closely tied to the artist.

Tell us about the new exhibition, ’23: A Brush With Redemption’?

This body of work is all I have worked on so far. I had time to develop my skills and studied each artist carefully.

The number 23 is special to me because it marks the anniversary of my mother’s death. After he died, I saw him everywhere and felt like it was a sign. I started to hide it in my paintings and the collection also has 23 works. In many ways, this show is for her.

These paintings are my redemption. I find salvation in painting. It allows me to express myself in a way that I could never do with words.

What are you going to work on next?

I work on trying to enjoy things in the moment. I often find that looking ahead is of no use to anyone. There is no big project, but I know that I will continue to paint. I’ll see what inspires me next.

Ross Muir’s next solo exhibition, 23: A Brush with Redemption, will open at Maddox Gallery9 Maddox Street, W1S 2QE on May 12, 2022.

About Catharine C. Bean

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