Artist Julie Murphy is committed to the importance of the arts for mental health. This is evident in her first solo exhibition, 'Myth and Memory', which opened at the Strule Arts Centre, Omagh last week and documents her inspiration from ancient healing myths and also learning from contemporary neuroscience.

Here she talks to The Impartial Reporter about her biggest influences, her most recent work and what her art means to her.

Where are you from and where are you currently based?

My father was from Fermanagh but we moved around because of his job, eventually settling in County Down.

I went to college in Edinburgh and then lived there for more than 20 years before returning to Northern Ireland, and I now live in Omagh.

What is your artistic background? Are you self-taught or did you go to art school/do courses?

I went to Edinburgh College of Art, where I studied Fine Art, and later I studied Art Psychotherapy at the University of Sheffield.

What inspires your art?

My exhibition, 'Myth and Memory', has just opened at the Strule Arts Centre in Omagh – until January 29 – and documents my inspiration from ancient healing myths and also learning from contemporary neuroscience.

I am committed to the importance of the arts for mental health. I work as a trauma therapist for Wave Trauma Centre in Omagh, and I am constantly inspired by the people who I meet there.

I love studying anatomy and my greyhound and whippet make great life models when it hasn’t been possible to do life drawing classes. I have also always loved horses, and there are many images including horses in the exhibition.

Who/what are your biggest influences?

I studied the history of art in depth at college and was particularly interested in German and Russian Expressionism and artists such as Kandinsky and Franz Marc.

Other artists that I love are Frida Kahlo, Max Ernst, Leonora Carrington and Georgia O’Keefe.

I am learning all the time, and did courses through Belfast Printmakers Workshop, and Derry Printmakers Workshop, and even Chicago Printmakers Collaborative, during the lockdown!

Is there a specific place that you do your work? Do you have a studio?

I am one of the founder members of Omagh Printmakers Initiative, and we meet each week in the Strule arts Centre.

At other times I use a room or several in my house, and dream of a dedicated studio!

Wave Trauma Centre is also very committed to the importance of creativity for mental health and has set up a dedicated ‘art cottage’, where I work with art therapy with individuals and offer art workshops.

What has been your most ambitious piece, to date?

My first solo exhibition, 'Myth and Memory'! There are 45 pieces of printmaking, drawing and sculpture and it reflects my interests and my current influences.

It has been so much work, but has had some very positive feedback, so I hope people will go to visit it during January!

There will be an artist talk on January 17, so just contact the Strule to book.

What different artistic media do you use and which is your favourite?

I think drawing is at the heart of all I do and I use wire as a means to explore line and drawing in 3D.

I am also committed to printmaking in all its forms, such as etching, monotype, collagraph.

I have a new printing press, and have been enjoying experimenting with colour recently.

What are you currently working on?

Having just completed the work for the exhibition, I am looking forward to new challenges.

I was lucky enough to do a course in Japanese woodblock printmaking (mokuhanga) in Japan in 2019, and my hope for 2022 is that I can become skilled in this fascinating process.

I love the work of Hokusai; most people will know his views of Mount Fuji, and his famous ‘Wave’ print, I think.

I am fascinated by all things Japanese!

Do you exhibit your work anywhere?

Apart from my current exhibition at the Strule, I have drawings in group shows that are touring and have been shown in many countries including Cyprus, Greece, the Netherlands and the USA – I wish I could be with them!

Any new artistic ventures planned for 2022?

I am looking forward to continuing to work with Omagh Printmakers Initiative (OPI) and to continue learning.

I love my work as an art psychotherapist, counsellor and art facilitator with Wave Trauma Centre, and hope to bring the healing power of creativity to many more people who attend the centre.

What has been your favourite project, to date?

My biggest achievement is definitely my first solo exhibition, but perhaps my favourite was making a lifesize greyhound out of wire!

What are you up to when you aren’t creating art?

I love to catch up with friends and hang out with my dogs, Tui the greyhound and Charlie the whippet.

I am a great advocate for people to adopt ex-racing greyhounds as they make the most gentle, affectionate and extremely lazy pets!

I also sell smaller work through a wonderful shop in Ballymena called 'Midtown Makers', and have set up a business selling wire sculpture kits under the tradename, ‘Twisted and Rapt’.

How would you describe your artistic style?

That’s quite a hard question. I think I would describe it as 'integrative', as I’m not an artist that works with the same style or medium all the time, but I hope that there is a link between all the works.

What does your art mean to you?

It’s just part of my DNA. I drew constantly as a child, and was lucky to have teachers that encouraged me.