“You are forced to pretend outward respect for people and institutions which you find ridiculous… You remain cowardly attached to moral or social conventions you despise, condemn and which you know lack all foundation... It’s the permanent contradiction between your ideas and desires on the one hand and all the dead forms and vain phantoms of your civilization on the other that makes you sad, troubled and unbalanced. In that intolerable conflict you lose all joy of life and all feeling of personality because every moment the free play of your strength is restrained, impeded and checked. That's the poisoned and mortal wound of the civilized world.”
Octave Mirbeau, My Mission, Chapter 8, Torture Garden, 1899. Suffolk: Dedalus. 2019, P. 94-95.
“by the madness which interrupts it, a work of art opens a void, a moment of silence, a question without answer, provokes a breach without reconciliation where the world is forced to question itself… Henceforth, and through the mediation of madness, it is the world that becomes culpable… in relation to the work of art; it is now… obliged to order itself by its language, compelled by it to a task of recognition, of reparation, to the task of restoring reason from that unreason and to that unreason… The moment when, together, the work of art and madness are born and fulfilled is the beginning of the time when the world finds itself arraigned by that work of art and responsible before it for what it is.”
Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization, New York: Vintage Books, 1973, P. 288-289.
"That is why Van Gogh died suicided, because it was the concerted awareness of society as a whole that could bear him no longer… Besides, one does not commit suicide alone. No one was ever born alone. Nor has anyone died alone. But, in the case of suicide, a whole army of evil beings is needed to force the body to perform the unnatural act of depriving itself of its own life.”
Antonin Artuad, 'Van Gogh The Man Suicided by Society', Artaud Anthology, Ed. Jack Hirschman, 1965, P161-162.
Hello, my name is David Murphy. I am a fifty-one-year-old (b. 1971) Irish hardcore Expressionist/Realist painter and writer living and working in Dublin, Ireland. I have painted since before I can remember, but I have been painting seriously for forty years - and my surviving oeuvre contains thirty-four years’ worth of paintings and drawings. The greatest artistic influences on my work have been Gothic, Baroque, Realist, Expressionist, Neo-Expressionist and Outsider Art.
My work is an anti-social, solipsistic, explosion of uncensored desire, and unregulated emotion. I make art for me and me alone. My early life was fractured by, death, madness, hunger, perversion, unhappy love affairs, and virulent rejections from the art world – so my work inclines towards pessimistic nihilism. My father suddenly died when I was six and a half, and my narcissistic mother had a complete nervous breakdown. For the rest of her life, she suffered from grand mal epilepsy, paranoid-schizophrenia and she was a pathological liar and highly manipulative. As a teenager, I suffered badly from an Oedipus complex (an inability to break my dependency on my mother) well into my mid-twenties. I spent my abused childhood and traumatic teenage years, biting my tongue, afraid to anger my mother, or my foster families, and disassociating myself from the world. I was nearly completely silent about what was happening to me from the age of six and a half, until I first tried to kill myself at twenty. At the time, I had no idea how I had turned out the way I had, or why I wanted to die so much. I did not even have the language to express how I felt. But I realised my secrets were killing me like a poison, and since then I have never been able to shut up! The only things that made me cry for help, during my multiple suicide attempts between October 1991 and January 1994, was cowardice and my deluded artistic ambition.
As a result of my childhood, I have suffered from a quiet borderline personality disorder in which I have turned all my shame, anger, and sadness on myself, isolated myself from others, and laser focussed all my rage and mortification into my art. Because of my childhood, I also suffer from an avoidant personality disorder, vulnerable narcissistic personality disorder, and an acute obsessive-compulsive disorder. My OCD resulted in my obsession with artistic productivity, and vain attempts to beat Picasso’s prodigiousness and productivity; my obsession with collecting as many books and catalogues on Picasso, Schiele, Basquiat, and Schnabel as I could afford, and my constant counting up of their oeuvres; my sexual OCD and constant self-comforting masturbation followed by intense shame and guilt, and which was triggered by my mother’s flirting with me, sexual exposure, sexual punishment, and physical abuse; and my confessional obsession which was a result of my moral scrupulosity OCD. I am a confession machine! I have also suffered from intense gynophobia, toxic shame, chronically low self-esteem, and masochism most of my life. Because of my incurable borderline personality disorder, I am very intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically disturbed. I suffer constant bouts of rage followed by shame, and this is reflected in my artworks. In many ways, my entire oeuvre has been a relentless process of self-interrogation, manic confession, self-exposure, self-trashing, self-mortification, and self-flagellation. I suffer almost hourly swings from elation to despair, grandiosity to self-loathing, horniness to shame, and creativity to emptiness - and then back again. It is frankly exhausting, and my emotions are a chaotic hourly helter-skelter! It also means that I do not have a consistent artistic style, and even many of my individual artworks contain cognitive dissonance. My partner Carol calls me a binge painter. I can spend weeks depressed and unable to even draw a stick figure. I even begin to think I have lost whatever talent I have - and I will never be able to make art again. So, I just read art books, write, and look at art and porn for subjects to inspire me. Then suddenly without thinking, I make dozens of artworks in the space of a few weeks - in a state of unconscious bliss. I am never happier than when I am painting, and I am in the flow – it is better than drugs or sex! After which, I am plunged back again into despair and research.
My monastic and voyeuristic pornography and the extreme nature of my art is a result of my attempt to develop a language that could express; the pain I felt after being ravaged by childhood abuse, neglect, and isolation; my alienation from humanity; my tortured masculinity; and the apocalypse of my soul. My signature and the date of my work is signed strikingly in large capital letters in the corner of nearly all my paintings and drawings - a sign of my huge ego and need for recognition. But also, a signal that I had completed the work to my satisfaction.
My art and writing are both forms of nihilistic polemic. I am completely alien to art history and there are few artists with whom I can even be compared. Perversely, although I make erotic and pornographic art – I am influenced by hardly any erotic or pornographic art, because with a few exceptions like Schiele and Picasso I find such work kitsch, simplistic and technically sub-standard. On the other hand, although I am stylistically influenced by many expressive artists, my content is derived from hardcore pornography, psychology, psychiatry, philosophy, and alternative music. The nearest artist to me was the equally transgressive, alienated, and unique Egon Schiele. Although artists from the 1990’s played games with pornography and told jokes about sex - only I fully embodied porn, pathologized it, and thus made it even more extreme.
Paradoxically, I have always been abjectly ashamed of my sexuality and my pornographic art has been a grandiose attempt to overcompensate for my guilt, shame, and repression. I always believed that I had to sacrifice my life for my art. And that meant staying at home all the time, painting as much as I could, and spending every spare penny on my art materials and art books. The more I limited my life outside, the more exceptionally intense my art became. So, the less I lived, the lonelier I became, the more I pined for love, the less I fucked in real life - the more powerful and intense my pornographic paintings became. Moreover, I have only been able to produce such a mass of pornographic artworks, because I have spent extraordinarily little of my life chasing young women, socialising with them, and even less time having sex with them. For me, porn is far cheaper, less emotionally damaging, and less time consuming than getting involved with most real women.
My artistic heroes are Pablo Picasso, Julian Schnabel, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Vincent van Gogh, Lucian Freud, Richard Gerstl, Egon Schiele, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Willem de Kooning and Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn.
A list of my subjects would include self-portrait busts, nude self-portraits, female nudes, kissing couples, erotic scenes, landscapes, gestural abstractions, text paintings and most controversially pornographic scenes including fellatio, cunnilingus, intercourse, and sodomy. My themes would include madness, isolation, loneliness, voyeurism, and mediated desire.
I do not have a single qualification to my name, and I am largely self-taught as an artist and entirely self-taught as a writer and intellectual. My art education - such as it is - consisted of a series of night classes taken intermittently over the course of twenty years, from the age of thirteen to thirty-three (mostly with private tutors between 1983-85, or in the National College of Art and Design in Dublin between 1992-1994 and 2003-2004). As well as one ill-disciplined year in Dun Laoghaire College of Art and Design from 1989-90, where I was accepted based on exceptional talent. But I got into trouble after a fight with a fellow pupil and then found my depression and social anxiety prevent me from preforming to the level I had hoped. For a totally deluded young man, who thought he was a child prodigy, and the second coming of Pablo Picasso, it was humiliating to realise I could not even compete with my mediocre classmates in the backwater of Dublin in 1989 - never mind the young Picasso! Meanwhile, I was so ashamed of my shyness, naivety, and virginity amongst so many girls with older boyfriends who boasted about their drunken escapades, that I pretended that I had a girlfriend studying art history in Trinity College! So, I spent more time making my "real art" at home and safe from comparison or criticism. The subjects I painted at home included self-loathing, nude self-portraits, and sinister erotic scenes. Thus, barely attending Art College, I dismally failed my first year and I was expelled. But I realised that I did not give a damn about the pursuit of mere technical competency, theoretical posturing, faddish experimentation or indeed any form of academic or socially motivated art. For me art only had meaning as an expression of myself, as a form of existential questioning and ultimately as a form of therapy. Kicked out of art college, I vowed to become a great artist almost as an act of revenge.
As an anarchistic, existential, expressionist, my work is also a rejection of every art world orthodoxy since the 1960s from; Marxism to Feminism, left-wing aesthetics, philosophy and politics, the dictatorship of linguistics, Neo-Academic Conceptual, Performance, Installation and New Media Art, factory and foundry made art, careerism, political correctness, artistic activism, progressive political art and totalitarian Liberal groupthink. Having grown up in a Republic of lies, been lied to constantly by mother and other adults, having my abuse minimised and excused, and being immersed for decades in the idealistic fantasies of High Art, I do not give a damn how others want the world to be - I am only interested in what it is really like. In a world glutted with fake people, positive-thinking, virtue signalling, and commercial hype – I make an art of abject self-loathing, catastrophic honesty, and nihilism. Besides, I have always been convinced that we were in the end of days, and the intellectual bankruptcy, moral degeneracy, and rotten decadence of the Western world - was the last orgy before the apocalypse.
Since the age of sixteen, I have only ever used artist quality materials, even though they cost more than twice the price of student materials. I am intoxicated by the expressive, evocative, poetic, and imaginative power of oils, watercolour, pastels, and traditional drawing techniques. Thus, my mediums are mostly defiantly old-fashioned; pencil, brush and ink, pastels, watercolours, alkyds, acrylics and oils and I use them in a manner the Expressionists over a hundred years ago would have recognised. What matters to me is individual creativity, personal vision and traditional qualities of craftsmanship, skill, authenticity, necessity, and accountability. For me, an artwork is validated by its manual skill, emotional authenticity, originality, and transgressive power. As such I am virulently anti-Modernist. However, I have had to fight tooth and nail, to express my own very private vision against artistic and social norms.
It was only in my mid-twenties that I began socialising, and promoters I befriended tried to get my work shown in art galleries. I managed to get several exhibitions - but collected many more rejections. After my mother’s death in 2009, and my subsequent grief and mental breakdown - I withdrew again from the world to preserve my sanity. I also gave up trying to achieve art world recognition. Having received over 99 rejections from art galleries and curators around the world - I stopped giving them the satisfaction of turning me down. So, I have not applied for a grant or approached a gallery or arts group since early 2011 and I have not attended any art opening since the start of 2017, and I only did then because my partner Carol was in the exhibition. Nor have I asked a single art world person to come and view my artwork in my house since the end of March 2007. Carol is the only person in real life I show my work to. But despite my alienation, I continue to paint more than ever with the freedom of the damned - if only as a form of delusional hobby and privileged therapy. As I aged, I became increasingly misanthropic, anti-social, nihilistic, and disgusted by the decadent, corrupt, manipulative, and hypocritical sham of the art world, contemporary art and its gang of hustlers, mercenaries, and imposters. Besides, contemporary art is so rigged and it ‘standards’ so arbitrary, ambiguous and contradictory - that almost any claim can be made for the politically-correct elect and almost any denigration levelled at those deemed unworthy and deplorable. Thus, success in art today, is usually the triumph of con-artists in a totally corrupt contest - whose rules are constantly changing to suit the mob or the élite. I grew up worshiping art and thought that being an artist was the most noble profession in the world. I also foolishly thought women would love me for being an artist. But now I realise that most people do not give a fuck about art - and many women only want powerful brutes. And any woman interested in art, is more interested in female artists, or is too busy trying to be a great artist themselves to sit at the feet of male artists in awe. Or they are seeking to symbolically castrate and destroy, living and dead, Western, white, male, heterosexual artists. Besides, young women today are so self-absorbed and narcissistic, that they only want to talk about themselves endlessly and photograph themselves ad nauseum. Moreover, I am now also disgusted by ‘Art’, and apart from a handful of Old, Modern and Contemporary Masters - I do not give a damn about ‘Art’. So, I want virtually nothing to do with the world - and have nothing to give it.
At heart, I am an expressionist artist; my art is the very opposite of 'arts for art’s sake', in fact I see no separation between my art and my life, both feed from each other to form a highly personal and autobiographical art. My approach to art is distinctly expressionist in character - my work tells stories about the human condition – which most can recognise and read – even if they cannot identify with it. Unlike other expressive painters whose expressionism is merely a form of stylistic filter they apply to anything and everything – my expressionism emanates from the subjects I paint - making it even more extreme. That is why, there is frequently a massive adrenaline drop in the intensity of my landscapes and still-lives, compared to my abstracts and female nudes, and especially my self-portraits and pornographic scenes. I am remorselessly self-critical, and my work is obsessed with the 'self' and the 'other' represented by the world. The fiction of me as a primitive outcast exploding with painterly rage, remorse, and anguish fuels my art and forms its identity.
Besides making extreme artworks of women, my oeuvre is far more notable for its awe and terror of women, male fragility, and its visual lexicon of male passivity, submission, and masochism in its many forms. Including images of vulnerable male nudity, self-mutilation and self-castration; images of mutilated or castrated penises; countless images of mature dominant women; skinny young men with voluptuous older women; manifestations of the female gaze; clothed females/naked male scenes; gangs of women leering at male strippers; women giving blowjobs to male strippers; women as aggressors, women screaming violently, forceful women kissing men, powerful women fucking men on top, weak men preforming cunnilingus; submissive men being pissed on by cruel women; subservient men licking women’s feet or shoes; and schizophrenogenic mothers, phallic mothers, dark mothers, femme fatales, psychotic bad boy aping liberated women, pornographic goddesses, party girls, heart-breaking beauties, divine angels, dominatrixes, and cuckoldresses. My oeuvre is a visual diary of my sexuality as it has gone through episodes of romantic idealism, lust, disgust, desire, fear, rage, longing, castration terror, shame, defiance, fantasies of masochistic submission and self-destruction, phallic power, cockiness, distress, and disillusionment. And although my artworks display some aggressive sex, it is nothing in comparison to what is out there in porn, and there are no images of women being physically abused or raped, and most of the violence in my art is directed toward myself. Personally, I like passionate and enthusiastic participation of women in my personal life, during sex, in porn and in the artworks I make. On the other hand, I have been a man in crisis my whole life, and so I have tried to give shape to men’s primal fear of liberated, empowered and sexually voracious women, as well as my own wounded masculinity.
Throughout my life, I have appalled many women and angered many men when I have told them that I paint pornographic paintings. It is in fact one of the first things I honestly and directly tell people - along with all the other dreadful things about me. I have experienced this moral outrage not only from narrow-minded working-class and middle-class people who know nothing about art, but also from supposedly Liberal arty people. I have had to constantly over-explain my art and artistry to people, who doubted I was even an artist! To be one of the few men to admit that he not only looks at porn but makes art about, it has turned me into a social pariah and outcast in the art world. Porn I have learned, is the only thing that can devalue art. And the obscener an artwork is, the less commercially, socially, morally, politically and humanistically valued it becomes. Constantly, people who frankly suspect me of the worst kind of character, have demanded that I provide a justification for my art or asked me snide, loaded questions about my pornographic art. I also discovered that there are so many other ways for cunning people to voice their disapproval of me and my art other than outright honest declarations of hate or censorship. All my life, people jumped down my throat for getting one aspect of a drawing or word wrong in a text - because no matter how small an error, they would attack me for that too! And they would criticize my work for things like my influences, style, or technique, which they blithely ignored in art that did not upset them. In fact, trying to avoid a direct confrontation or debate, they would think of every excuse under the sun, to tell me why they wanted nothing to do with my art – apart from the obvious reasons. Such people cannot fathom why anyone would glorify such immoral people or have any interest in such trashy taboo imagery. I find it a pointless question to try to answer, because those who ask it – have already made up their minds on the basis of religious, aesthetic, Feminist or Liberal moral cant. And these self-righteous liars have no intention of being honest about their own sexuality or relationship to porn.
There is no one reason why I paint porn, my motivations are multi-faceted, and I may never know the real reason myself. Contrary to what most people would assume – I do not paint porn to shock - especially because I started painting porn long before I had any audience to shock, and I hid them in portfolios the minute I had completed them, and they stayed there, unseen for years. And frankly the skill, depth, complexity, and perseverance of my pornographic work is the best rebuke to that fatuous claim. I do not paint porn to make money or advance my career, because I know my porn paintings are virtually unsaleable, unexhibitable, and are an anathema to Liberal/Feminist curators. Nor do I paint porn to arouse myself or others. Or to celebrate sexuality - in fact, sex for me is a horror and a few women are demons. Moreover, hardly anything I have ever painted represented my real sex life – it merely recorded mass media porn images - I consumed and I was obsessed by (the exceptions were some quick sketches of myself with prostitutes, nudes of my lovers Edward, Helen, and Carol, and much later depiction of myself as a young man in Amsterdam with prostitutes made from memory.) Just a few of the reasons I paint porn include; as a nihilistic expression of Eros when I was most suicidal and haunted by Thanatos; as a rage filled hyper-masculine revolt against maternal domination and psychological castration; as a visual display of ‘the erotic’s of agony’; as a transformation of the ‘trash’ of porn and my base desires – into artistic beauty and gold; as a collection of porn goddesses, my only companions in empathy, truth and damnation; as an attempt to surmount my terror of psychotic bad boy mimicking liberated women by painting them obsessively; to subconsciously mirror my mother’s psychosis - in the almost-psychotic faces of porn actresses and amateur sluts and their terrorizing gazes; as a form of cathartic exorcism; as a projection of my fears and container for my pain; as a perverse compensation for a fearful life of limited social contact, intimacy or love; as a metaphor for loneliness and alienation and the cruelty of existence; as projected self-portraits of myself as a sexual woman; as a tearing down of the theatrical walls of art to expose the obscenity of life; as a kind of visual, philosophical virtual-brothel - the most concentrated and explicit form of society in media; as a continuation of the erotic art of the likes of Pablo Picasso and Egon Schiele; as a supreme technical, intellectual and emotional challenge; as revenge upon the art world that rejected me; as a rebellion against the art market; as an assault on suffocating bourgeois good taste and morality; as retribution against the idealism, fantasies and lies of High Art; as a rebuke to disinterested aesthetics and the reduction of art to mere techniques and faddish signature styles; as retaliation against the censorious humanitarian lies of the Liberal media and Feminist propaganda; and ultimately, as a symbol of my outsider and outcast status. Thus, in my pornographic paintings, I make the tragic erupt in obscene imagery and turn pornographic images into records of my state of mind. You might even say, that far from being a hedonistic pornographer – I am a nihilistic, apocalyptic, Alt-Right moralist.
As a contemporary painter of porn stars (the twenty-first century mediated equivalent of Baudelaire’s whores) I am entranced by the pornographic ‘frenzy of the visible’. Because as Baudelaire observed: “[The whore] is a perfect image of the savagery that lurks in the midst of civilisation. She has her own sort of beauty, which comes to her from Evil always devoid of spirituality… In that vast picture-gallery which is life in London or Paris, we shall meet with all the various types of fallen womanhood – of woman in revolt against society – at all levels… Some of these [whores], examples of an innocent and monstrous self-conceit, express in their faces and their bold, uplifted glances an obvious joy at being alive (and indeed, one wonders why). Sometimes, quite by chance, they achieve poses of a daring and nobility to enchant the most sensitive of sculptors, if the sculptors of today were sufficiently bold and imaginative to seize upon nobility wherever it was to be found, even in the mire… in a foggy, gilded chaos, whose very existence is unsuspected by the chaste and the poor, we assist at the Dervish dances of macabre nymphs and living dolls whose childish eyes betray a sinister glitter…” (Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life, The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, London: Phaidon, 1995, P. 36-38.)
Those who attack me as a misogynistic artist unconcerned about the socio-political reasons behind the vulgar carnality of psychotic liberated women and porn stars - are missing the point of my art. My pornographic expressive and anti-social art is created to release my roiling feelings and unload my psychosexual pain into my artworks - without censorship and regardless of what those responses are, without self-consciousness, and without trying to please or accommodate anyone else. Thus, my art transgresses to the three greatest venerable idols of Western civilization – art, motherhood, and womankind. So of course, my pornographic and anti-social art is offensive to just about everybody - especially those people whose primary concern is the correct moral and ideological stance. That is why my work can simultaneously offend men and women, decadents and aesthetes, hedonists and puritans, misogynists and Feminists, and pornographers and censors! Women are angered that I have revealed and glorified the sexual debauchery of some women, and men are angered that I have exposed their primal fear of women and castration, and their resulting terrified denigrating of women if they are sexually free and empowered. More importantly, my work totally exposed the schizophrenic unreality of the ancient Madonna/whore complex with its absurd notions that women should conceive without sex, or at best not enjoy it, and that any woman who has sex and enjoys it is automatically a whore. And its even more unrealistic Feminist rewriting as the Madonna/Madonna forced by men to be a whore complex, and the notion of the ‘male gaze’ which cunningly shifted the blame from women who act up sexually to men who look at them! Saying men like to look at sexy women and have the pathology of predators is frankly a lot easier in today’s politically correct world, where all the blame for sex in the West is put upon men, than trying to explain the dark psychology of female attention seeking, exhibitionism, and sexual submission to alpha males.
I had minor solo exhibitions in Dublin in a grotty media centre in 1994, in a shabby anarchist bookshop in 1996, and in a pub in 1997. Then in 2000 and 2002, I had two major shows in the Oisín Gallery in Dublin - but before and since I have had mostly rejections - many of them extremely disgusted and dismissive. And six of those rejections were from the Oisín Gallery who turned against my art once they found there was no market for it. Despite the initial pleasure of being able to buy more art materials, pleasing my mother, and proving my numerous critics wrong - in the long run my involvement with the Oisín Gallery proved to be the worst thing that had ever happened to me as an artist. I had spent my life fighting for my creative independence, and I had done everything to preserve my authenticity. But getting involved with the Oisín Gallery, resulted in my whole artistic identity being undermined. Constantly criticised for my extreme nude self-portraits and pornographic work and pressurised to paint commercial PG rated work - I underwent a chronic identity crisis. Yet, even when I did try to please the gallery and my critics I failed. Despite finishing with the Oisín Gallery in late 2004, it took me a further three or four years before I recovered my artistic self-belief. Moreover, my brief few weeks of fame left me feeling deeply conflicted, dirty, a sell-out and media whore. The way my worthless and reviled art was suddenly considered a commercial product completely bewildered me. I was revolted by the sight of myself on TV and my name in print. I was also disgusted with how many people’s (especially women’s) contempt for me and my art, suddenly changed overnight, when I had some success and sales, ex female lovers came out of the woodwork, and women flew around me like moths to a flame in a way they never had before. However, the Oisín Gallery was just a commercial gallery that sold kitsch landscapes, that appealed to the totally uninitiated and uneducated art public - but not remotely to connoisseurs, critics, art students or bohemian contemporary artists. So, no one in the real Irish art world even considered it a proper gallery and they refused to touch my art with a bargepole. Moreover, my brief fame and financial success could not free me from the agony of my borderline personality disorder - only a total reordering of my whole personality could have achieved that.
Long before cancel-culture, and no-platforming, I was blacklisted in the Irish art world. My art has been attacked as adolescent, immature, revolting, insane, violent, ugly, sick, filthy, stylistically inconsistent, obscene, degrading, sexist, misogynistic, exploitative, unacceptable, appalling - or simply not art. Others pretended not to be shocked, and said my work was boring! At my first official exhibition in The Garden of Delights anarchist bookshop in 1996, I was ganged up on, by a bunch of angry men who demanded I “explain myself”, and berated me for being elitist, ambitious, and wanting to make money from my art! I had never thought making money from art was a crime - but I had done nothing to make saleable or acceptable art. These so-called radicals turned out to be mostly bitter, envious crypto-Fascists and reactionary crypto-Catholics. The only thing they conceded, was that I was not a coward. But why I had to be subjected to their bullying bile - just to prove I was not a coward - was beyond me. For nearly an hour, these scorpions surrounded me and verbally attacked everything about me (notably, apart from my porn paintings) before finally at the end, a few grudgingly admitted they did not think pornography, or my kind of art should be allowed to exist! During my major exhibitions in 2000 and 2002, I was scapegoated in the Irish press as sad sicko - as though I was the only man or woman in Ireland who had ever had sex never mind looked at porn. But my observations on the crisis of masculinity, modern liberated women, or Western decadent society were hardly mentioned never mind investigated. Instead, I was treated as a unique alien weirdo. To make matters worse for my critics was the fact that I was plainly skilled enough to create beautiful conventional paintings - but I chose to use my talent to paint porn! Furthermore, when I have brought up my history of spiteful rejections in my writings – I have been told I have a persecution complex! Yet, they are only the rejections I have received from the art world. My life has been filled with people silently judging me, avoiding me, cross-examining me, projecting shame on me, ridiculing me, or verbally attacking me because of my art. Ironically, it has often been the worst sluts and perverts who have attacked me and my art the most viciously - as they projected their own shame upon me. On the other hand, those who were fans of my art but did not know me personally, were disappointed, and shocked I was so introverted, timid, and lacking in self-confidence. I was clearly not the dark self-confident, dominant, alpha male, super-predator they expected or desired! Worse still were the deviants and whores who totally misread my work and thought it was an affirmation of them! Moreover, little written about me by others – friend or foe, has ever given me any real insights into my art because most of it was a projection of the writers’ own issues and couched in such defensive and self-exculpatory language as to be pure bullshit. At the time, I naïvely thought that I was only critically treated the same way every other Irish or international artist was treated. And as a lover of art criticism and honesty, I thought it only fair. Only over time, reading countless reviews on other far less talented and original artists, and seeing the sycophantic way they were treated – because they had the right victim identity, obeyed Woke clichés, virtue signalled, and made harmless, clichéd Neo-Academic, Neo-Salon, or Zombie-Neo-Mannerist pap - did the penny drop! Years later, my ex-Edward wondered, if I had been a better looking and charming alpha male, if people would have taken so much dislike and offense to me and my art? Carol thought, that if I were a female artist, my success would have been manufactured by the Feminist/Liberal art élite, and I would have been really championed, hyped, and venerated - the way so many female artists, who painted porn long after me were. They were given exhibitions of their decorative, prettified, and superficial porn, in the very same blue-chip art galleries and prestigious museums that had rejected me so dismissively. And while I was demonized, they were called courageous, sexy, and original - and their paintings were sold for prices I could not even dream of! But Carol also thought the main reason I had failed was because I refused to lie. So, I have become so disillusioned by people and the art world, that I am happier living alone with my beloved girlfriend Carol.
Yet since May 2000, I have sold over €61,766 worth of art. The highest price paid for one of my paintings was €10,792 (The Dialectic of Emotions 1995 - sold in the Oisín Gallery in November 2000.) The average price for one of my works has been around €550 - 1,500. My art is in corporate and private collections in America, Ireland, England, and Australia. However, of all my sales, only two were for hardcore pornographic works, the previously mentioned large oil painting The Dialectic of Emotions from 1995 and the Indian ink drawing Numbing My Ego from 1997 for €450. In 2005, I also received €1,400 in for the film option rights to my autobiography The Panic Artist. But the option expired, and the film was never made. Because the film maker said I was “too passive a character”.
To date my oeuvre contains over 4,787 paintings (acrylics, watercolours, oils, alkyds, mixed-media, collages, pastels, or gouaches – mostly on 140lb/300gsm watercolour paper) and over 3,352 drawings (pencil, ink, coloured pencils, chalks, charcoal, or permanent markers – mostly on 140lb/300gsm watercolour paper.) I have also produced 4 sculptures, 27 mono-prints, 14 scrapbooks with examples of art I admire and 75 notebooks with over 3,350 sketches. I have also taken thousands of documentary and family photographs, but I do not consider myself a photographer. I am merely a documenter of my own life and working practices. My surviving oeuvre represents only those works that have survived my own self-critical destruction. On average, I have destroyed about 20% of my initial artwork production. All my works including my mono-prints are handmade, unique, one-off pieces - made entirely by myself without assistants or technicians and with the best artist quality materials. However, of 4,787 paintings only around 260 or about 6.3% of them are on canvas, board or found objects - the rest were painted on watercolour paper. My lack of a studio and storage space, poverty, marginalization, and my excessive creativity has forced me to work mostly on paper.
Drawing is the most creative, pure, and direct medium amongst all the visual arts, flowing from the artists hand and revealing its life force on the paper. Paper is not simply a screen on which an artist works – it is an active participant in the creative process. Ironically, I forced my personal tragedy upon paper and expressed most of my artistic and sexual muscle and wounded machismo on humble sheets of paper. I am a connoisseur of the finest papers and many cheap ones as well. Every kind of paper has its own qualities and I have worked on Daler Rowney cartridge paper; Daler Rowney, Canson and Fabriano pastel paper; Sennelier pastel card; Winsor & Newton acrylic paper; Arches oil paper, Fabriano oil paper, Winsor & Newton oil paper; Cotman, Bockingford, Fabriano, Arches, Clarefontaine and Moulin de Plombie watercolour paper; as well as Indian Khadi cotton rag; Nepalese vegetable paper; Canson The Wall marker paper; and Clarefontaine multi-media paper. Many of these papers when placed against the light revealed a watermark. But I also worked on thick sheets of acetate with permanent markers, my own photographs, porn magazine pages, reproductions of World War Two maps, reproductions of vintage newspaper sheets, pages from books like ones on Sade or women’s sexual fantasies, reproductions of erotic prints, CD album pages, photographs, exhibition invitation cards, commercial advertisements, psychiatric medical packaging, photocopies, wallpaper and fancy papers. But usually, I coated these commercial lower grade papers with a layer of acrylic matt varnish with UV protection to help preserve them. I have also made use of various mediums on paper (individually or in combination) like; pencil, coloured pencils, Conté, Indian ink, permanent markers, gouache, watercolour, acrylic, alkyd, oil, oil-stick or spray-paint.
As a weak and helpless child, I watched my mother go insane from a safe distance. I became totally passive and voyeuristic, and I was constantly on the alert for danger not only from my mother but other women and men. Looking on at the world from a safe distance became an obsession for me. I lived my life looking at art in books, women in porn, and the horrors of the world on the news. Because I am terrified of criticism and embarrassed by praise, chronically shy and loath most interactions with real people, about 80% of my work has been based upon photographs, of which about 75% were found in the media. Even most of my self-portraits were made from Polaroid’s, video-stills, photographs, and JPEGs, because I did not like looking at myself in the mirror, I found it tedious, and disliked the limited number of expressions I could capture looking in a mirror. But when I had my first interview with the Head of Fine Art in NCAD in January 1987, I was castigated for my use of photography. It remained a point of contestation in my head for the rest of my life, as I learned not only how many artists had used photography but also how many lied through their teeth about their use of photography! The revulsion of so many artists towards photography, was not only because photography had made the visual documentation of life in paint irrelevant, and many of them unemployable, photography had also exposed the idealism, and fantasies of art. Even if I had the money to hire models to paint or photograph, I would not do it. I do not want any involvement whatsoever with who I paint and do not do commissions. I am so introverted that I have preferred to work indoors, under artificial light, at night, from; newspaper and magazine clippings, black and white photographs of classical sculptures, movie stills, television screen grabs, glamour photographs, images lifted from pornographic magazines and videos, anatomy prints, vintage erotica, postcards, reproductions of artworks, internet JPGs, sports action shots, web pages, children’s books, family photos, personally taken photographs of myself and friends and scenes from my holidays. I use these sources as a way of reacting to and commenting on the world without participating in it.
Yet, while these various forms of photographic sources provided the starting point for my work, their real subject was my own expressive manipulation of paint, used to express my anxiety. Unlike most of my contemporaries who use photographs to critique photography and express alienation - I use photographs as a pretext for my own subjective responses. Like a dark poet of reality, I remake familiar images, turning them into revelations of myself and my anguished vision. While most of the photographs I use, were taken by people who had at least an indirect relationship with the people and places they photographed, my relationship is only with the resulting image. Moreover, as an introvert, fearful of real involvement with the world, and as a voyeur who takes the most pleasure in just looking - I am happy with this lack of real involvement. However, I maybe nothing but a voyeur, but I turn the viewers of my art into voyeurs twice over.
The conservative art critic Robert Hughes was no fan of artists using photography and mass media as inspiration for their work but even he had to concede that: “There is scarcely an important artist of the past hundred years around whom a book could not be spun, and a show constructed, with the title “Fred X and Photography””. (Robert Hughes, Horrible!, The Guardian, August, 2008.)
As Baudelaire has pointed out, photography can poison vision. It records reality, but lacks an imaginative component, and as Gary Indiana has commented “the camera cannot lie, but it also cannot tell the truth.” (Gary Indiana, “Report from Paris,” Art in America, May 1984, P. 36.) When painting from life I do not feel any need to do anything but record what is in front of me. However, when working from photographs I feel compelled to ramp up the intensity of line, colour and texture to make it more a work of my own. I do not copy photographs - I interpret them! The shock of my work is that I take ‘objective’ mechanical and electronic images – often of the most extreme kind - and personalized them. I use them as props, which I manipulated visually to express my individual moods and reactions to such imagery. This was a pre-condition I set on all my ‘copies’ from photographs from 1987 onwards. I do not slavishly stick to the photographic image as Photorealists do (my alkyd painting Country Road, 1988, based on a photograph my father had taken, was one of the few notable examples of dispassionate copying in my oeuvre.) And even when I have tried to be my most academic, disciplined and ‘objective’ – my pathological anxiety has seeped into the facture of the painting.
If you want consistency in an artist, you will never find it in my work. Most artists only ever do one thing. My art is not dependent upon a single style or manner. It has many strands. Taking my art as a totality, does not mean that it everything is of equal value. There are major works but there are also many minor works of lesser value. However, the cumulative effect gets more powerful the more I produce and the more I complicate things. My paintings are an example of unfettered creativity made selfishly without the restraints of Art Colleges, galleries, curators, or critics. My work is an art of absolute freedom. The core of my art can roughly be divided into seven major periods:
1. 1987-1990 - My Black Paintings Period. Although, I had painted before I could ever remember, it was only in 1987, that I left school to become an artist. After being soundly rejected for application to NCAD (my first of four times) I destroyed all my amateur work from 1980-1986. That I destroyed all my precious early work, was a symptom of how little I felt encouraged, supported, or respected. Trying to make myself seem like a prodigy, in January 1987, I started backdating my artworks by a few months. Thinking I was destined to be one of the greatest artists who had ever lived, I began painting influenced by Rembrandt, Ingres, Degas, Schiele, and Picasso. I retreated into my bedroom, to run-away from my deranged mother, the terrifying presence of girls and an adult world I could not deal with. I dropped out of life and escaped into an imaginary world of artistic glory, masturbation, and sexual fantasy. In the spring of 1988, my dreams of artistic glory received a crushing blow, when I discovered the early child prodigy artworks of Picasso and realised, I would never beat him. So, I began to back date my work by up to a year and half, to make myself look more precocious. When I finally revealed this deadly secret to my therapist in January 1993, I tried to kill myself. But when I survived, I stopped back dating my work. The blackness of my paintings at the time, were an expression of my depression and self-hate, which also warped and deformed my technical ability and limited my artistic vision. The surfaces of my Black Paintings were so thickly lacquered with paint, that they formed an impervious air-tight surface that mirrored my repressed, reclusive, and anti-social existence. In addition, there were my classical drawings, which displayed a strong linear style, with bold outlines and sharp contrasts of tone. These mute and repressed drawings also mirrored my own selectively mute and shut-in nature at the time and there was barely any emotional spillage in these frozen, almost robotic drawings. During 1990, I struggled to break free of my rigid linear drawing and dark pallet. I tried to make my paintings more expressive, colourful and transfuse my roiling emotions into pigment. As a result, many of my works of 1990 dismally failed - though I did create a few works that I could build upon in the following year. Tormented Lovers of late 1990, was perhaps my most import early erotic artwork. I took a kitsch, hippie, illustration of a couple embracing in a sex manual, and turned it into a demonic expression of my fear of women, fear of intimacy, and performance anxiety. Even at this early stage, my work was notable for its confessional and erotic mania and gynophobia. The subject matter of my work from 1987-1990, included nude self-portraits and nude self-portraits masturbating, as well as tormented erotic scenes, female portraits, female nudes and my first drawings based on pornographic source material.
2. 1991-1995 – My Panic Art Period. When, I was intensely lonely, gynophobic, suicidal, tortured by my sexual inadequacy, and suffered from an agonising borderline personality disorder – compounded by years of living self-isolated in my bedroom. I painted for years in solitude, mapping my inner existential inferno with a trail of agonised paintings and projected my sexual terror of women onto huge pornographic canvases. In many ways, my early work was a form of proto-Incel art. My Panic paintings were explosive expressionist paintings made up of angular shapes, simplified drawing, bold juxtapositions of contrasting colours (red and green or orange and blue) frenzied brushstrokes and jammed with text and diagrams. I was influenced by Richard Gerstl, Willem de Kooning, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Julian Schnabel amongst many others. In April 1991, I began signing my work 'Cypher' as a sign of my alienation, and to break free of my domineering mother, by creating an alter-ego that defied her and all her values. Also, by naming myself ‘Cypher’ I announced to all those with eyes to see - that I knew I was an artist of no importance and a man of no social prestige or influence, living in a Godless universe without meaning. I would only revert to my real name in February 2009 after my mother's death. When I had been in Dun Laoghaire College of Art and Design in 1990, a girl in my class had made a large phallus with a woman riding ecstatically on top of it. Not only did her sculpture shock me because it was such an uncritical anti-Feminist celebration of cock, it also made me feel inadequate, and it represented a joyful image of sex I could not relate to. So, in 1992, I made numerous images of phalluses being cut with razor blades or penetrated by pins or nails. And all my self-portraits and porn images at the time expressed my self-loathing sexual frustration. From June 1990 to September 1993, was my most authentic ‘Outsider’ period when I created my art in insane solitude for my own personal reasons and without any audience or critics. From 1991-1995, was also the period during which I created virtually all my large-scale works - because I spent most of my modest inheritance from my father’s death on the best quality artist materials and large French linen canvases. My work included suicidal nude self-portraits, nude self-portraits masturbating and nude self-portraits mutilating myself, as well as pornographic scenes, anguished female nudes, my first abstracts and a growing number of autobiographical text-based works. Meanwhile, tortured by my virginity and unable to court or seduce a girl, I finally lost my virginity aged twenty-one in May 1992 to a prostitute in Amsterdam. From May 1992-January 1995, I visited Amsterdam four times, and had sex with thirty-nine different women and some of them half a dozen times. Between the autumn of 1993 and the winter of 1994, I had a couple of male lovers but only because I was so lonely and terrified of women. But I remained sexually attracted only to women. Then between the late spring on 1994, and the late autumn of 1995, I had a number of one-night stands with alternative girls.
3. 1996-2000 – My Post-Adolescent Period. During which, I broke free from my mother and lived in my late twenties, the teenage years I had sacrificed for my art. I had my first girlfriend and saviour Helen Black with whom I enjoyed a full sex life and a growing circle of friends. I spent more time than ever in the past, socialising, drinking, drug taking, fucking, going to gigs, and having debauched nights in clubs and house parties. Sick of risking my life for my art (which everyone hated) I made a conscious decision to try to be happy regardless of how it affected my art. Besides, my anguished and lonely, proto-Incel art made no sense once I had a freed myself from my mother and had a girlfriend who loved me and sexually satisfied me. So, all of this, and my growing maturity, challenged my self-created solipsistic adolescent universe and fanatical artistic focus. My work from 1996-2004, became fatally self-conscious, deadpan, and performative. Aware for the first time of people’s reactions to my art, it turned from a confession into a coded performance. It was also a period when lack of money for art materials, drove me to spend more time writing than painting - and arguably my writing, diminished my creativity and ability to emote on canvas. Thus, my artworks began to be more about the expression of ideas rather than raw emotion. There was also a lowering of ambition, imaginative levels, and seriousness in my work from 1996-2000. Struggling to make sense of my new life and creating under the influence of hashish, ecstasy, and Outsider Art, I made even more insane and transgressive looking works to overcompensate for my lack of feeling or belief. My work at the time was jammed with text, diagrams, and abstract smears of pure colour straight from the tube, often on ready-made supports such as pornographic magazine pages, photographs, and reproductions of war maps. I even ransacked the petit-bourgeois paintings and furniture, that had graced Tara my mother and father’s house in Howth and had been the site of my worst abuse and trauma at the hands of my deranged mother, after my father’s death. My subjects included pornographic cartoons and paintings, insane drug induced collages, symbolic abstracts, acetate based nude self-portraits and orgy scenes. However, by 1998 at the age of twenty-seven, my fanatical belief in my art had been lost because of the evaporation of my adolescent vision, my lack of success as an artist and my bitter study of art criticism and pessimistic philosophy. Thus, my artworks of 1998 declared my hatred of art. My work lost its explosive solipsistic intensity of expression and became more impersonal, straight-faced, distanced, ironic, cynical, and Post-Modern as my work became more and more influenced by Julian Schnabel.
4. 2001-2004 – My Identity Crisis Period. Which was brought on by my two exhibitions in the Oisín Gallery in Dublin in 2000 and 2002, during which I was castigated from nearly all sides. In short, critics admired my talent - but thought I was a sick misogynist. I also had to endure constant criticism from my dealers and pressure to make PG-rated, commercial, conservative illustrative work. Which led me to have the most desperate identity crisis of my career. As an artist I lost self-belief, inspiration, courage, and direction, and I would spend the next five years trying to re-build myself as an artist. My subjects included figurative and text paintings damning the Irish art world, male and female academic studies, self-portrait busts, landscapes, soft-core female nudes and pornographic drawings and paintings - all painted under the delirious influence of hashish. These works were often of student quality - due to my intensive rebuilding of my technique. In mid-2004, my first girlfriend Helen ended our relationship - leaving me distraught and forced to rebuild my life again. At the end, Helen observed that the work I had done while we were together from late 1996 to mid-2004, was nothing compared to the work I had done when isolated, tortured by sexual inadequacy and suicidal. And I knew she was right. Meanwhile, I gradually lost touch with most of my old friends.
5. 2005-Mid-2007 - The Carol Stevens Period. Saw the start of my re-birth as an artist through the influence of my beloved second girlfriend and greatest muse Carol Stevens. Realising, that as an artist I had gained little from friendships, contact with an art gallery, socialising, or debauchery, I vowed to live alone with Carol and concentrate fully on my art, the way I had in my early twenties. Apart from online fans, most of whom never seemed real to me, Carol became virtually my only artistic audience, and I trusted her opinion, more than anyone I had ever known. We also spent a lot of our time going to art exhibitions and I wrote an art blog about our trips – which helped to codify my ideas about art. Carol also encouraged me to explore less hardcore and more varied imagery, so over twice as much of my work from 2005-2016 were non-pornographic even conventional subjects as my work from 1987-2004.
6. Late 2007-2018– My Purple Period. It was notable for my frequent use of purples, violets, mauves, and pinks. I was intoxicated by the magical power, intensity, and sincerity of the colour purple. My extraordinary use of purple was a symbolic manifestation of my paranoid psychosis, dreadful pride and self-sufficiency, borderline personality disorder and persecution complex. It was also a totemistic attempt to find obsessive-compulsive safety from complete mental breakdown - in a consistent pallet of purple. My Purple Period was full of threatening and doom-laden images - made even more so by my purple pallet. I did not always use purple in my paintings of this period, but it was the dominant colour and reoccurred again and again at my lowest ebbs. Between late-2007 and mid-2017, my art possessed greater maturity, painterly-application and refinement of style. And I painted with more intensity, consistency, and thoughtfulness than I ever had - even in my explosive Panic Art Period of 1991-1993. In terms of pure craft and technical mastery - I reached the height of my powers in my forties. I also began to paint far more from within myself and transform my artistic influences into artworks that could only have been made by me. Meanwhile, between late-2007 and mid-2013, Carol studied Fine Art in NCAD first to gain a Degree and then a Masters. Not only did her youthful exploration of creativity re-light my fire as an artist and give me a cherished companion whom I could talk to intensively about art and show my work to, she also gave me access to the NCAD library where I devoured books on Neo-Expressionism and Expressionism. At the start of 2009, my mother died, and I suffered the worst nervous breakdown of my life. I only survived because of the love and support of Carol. As well as experiencing extreme grief - I also found all the memories and feelings I had suppressed about my childhood overwhelm me. This was compounded by my cannabis induced psychosis. So, my work from 2009-2016 was consumed by feelings of grief, guilt, shame, anger, and despair. The 7th February 2009 also saw me return to signing my paintings ‘David Murphy’. For the next few years, I frequently painted my mother from my memory, imagination, and old family photos – as though I did not want to let her go. Late in 2009, I quit drugs and drink - but continued to chain smoke. My subjects included guilt ridden female nudes, paintings of my mother’s funeral, landscapes and town scenes from my mother’s old Polaroid's, paintings of myself from my memory or imagination, insane collages, and frenzied abstractions. Yet, despite painting far more acceptable subject matter – my art was filled with grief, trauma and nihilism and was no more appealing than my earlier pornographic art. Then in late 2011, after trying for years to suppress my interest in sexual themes in my art and only becoming even more conflicted, distressed and self-loathing - I returned to painting erotic scenes, paintings of webcam women, expressive and unrepentant pornographic paintings. My return to pornographic imagery was also a nihilistic recognition that I was doomed to never be accepted by the art world – but I vowed to paint with the freedom of the damned. When I returned to painting erotica and then porn in the mid-summer of 2012, I avoided the transgressive extremes and perversions of my early pornographic paintings - because that no longer interested me. My late porn paintings, were more ellagic and tragically melancholy, and far more a celebration of female beauty and sexiness.
7. 2019-2021 – My Castration Complex Period. Between 2019-2020, I studied and wrote about Picasso and in particular his brothel painting Les Demoiselle d’Avignon. At the time, I suffered from porn induced erectile disfunction, compounded by my depression, toxic shame, performance anxiety, use of anti-depressants, chain smoking, and unhealthy lifestyle. I had been familiar with Sigmund Freud’s castration complex theory since a teenager - but I had never believed it – perhaps because I could not admit it to myself. So, for the first time, I understood that Les Demoiselle d’Avignon was all about Picasso’s fear of insatiable women and his own castration! For the next year, I studied texts about many men’s fear of women, shameful impotence, and terror of castration. I suddenly realised that the misogyny and sexism of men, which I had never understood, was based not on hate - but fear and inadequacy! In my own artworks, I cut up many images I had painstakingly created - as a symbol of my impotence, self-loathing, nihilism, and contempt for Fine Art. In the autumn of 2020, I became obsessed and deeply traumatised by ‘cuckold’ porn. I had seen a lot of porn in my life, but this struck me as the most psychologically fucked up thing I had ever seen. Probably because for once it was the masochistic husband being humiliated, heartbroken and psychologically destroyed and not the woman. In the small oil paintings I made after this, I depicted shrivelled, impotent penises, and portraits of myself as an abused child. A couple of months later, I made a series of Cuck Fear cartoon drawings which helped me to therapeutically work through my issues. The following May, I made my ‘The Female Gaze’ drawings and paintings which depicted entranced women gazing at men masturbating with huge cocks on social media. The Female Gaze artworks were an extension of my Incel inspired Chad and Nigel cartoons of late 2018, and my Cuck Fear cartoons of late 2020. Because they depicted alpha males with huge cocks hypnotising horny women with their massive erections. They also went right back to my first artworks of women leering at male strippers from the spring of 1991 summer of 1993. They were a direct attack on the late 1970s Feminist idea of the ‘male gaze’, which transferred the blame from women who acted up sexually, to men who look at them, denied the reality of female voyeurism, and was a gross simplification of male/female desire which I had dissected in my writing. The Female Gaze artworks also played in again, to my fears of sexual inadequacy as a man, and fear of sexually voracious women. In mid-2021, I began a series of self-portraits of myself as teenager and young man, expressing my self-loathing at the time and describing my first times with prostitutes in Amsterdam. These artworks were technically easy for me to make, but they were psychologically traumatic, because I had to relive some of the saddest moments in my life.