Moods that meet the eye


 ROME -- Kevin Murray is an Australian painter who has lived and worked in Rome for most of his life. He is showing thirty of his landscapes at Studio Minerva Rome for two weeks from October 21st. His theme is Landscapes of Mood. You could argue that all landscapes evoke a mood of some sort or other but some of Murray's, depicting a sundown, a dusk, a twilight a spring morning or a summer afternoon along the Via Appia Antica, evoke moods in a particular way.

 Mont St Victoir in Provance seemed to cast a magic spell over Paul Cézanne for he depicted it time and time again. Monte Cavo that dominates the  Campagna Romana features prominently in Kevin Murray's Landscapes of Mood,  Monte Cavo also has its moods. Kevin Murray's colours have captured some of them.

 Rome's oldest road, the Via Appia Antica,  the Queen of the Roads to the Ancient Romans, also has her moods, moods that bewitch Murray who says "I love sketching on the Via Appia because everywhere you gaze your eyes are met with the most beautiful landscapes. It's a real tonic to gaze at them." When you look at his paintings, you understand what he means. 

 Kevin Murray is a seventh-generation Irish -Australian. He has been painting since he was at kindergarten. At high school his Art teacher, Mr Eppis, a short, swarthy Greek immigrant, stimulated his students by setting them subjects to paint such as The Roar of the Volcano. The Art room walls displayed colour reproductions of noted Australian artists such as William Dobell, Russell Drysdale, Donald Friend and Justin O'Brian. Little did  Murray realize then that  he would meet Justin O'Brian in Rome and become a firm friend,

 Before coming overseas, Murray studied Life Drawing, Painting Composition and Ceramics at the then East Sydney Tech, now the National School of Art.

 How is it that he lived the remainder of his life in Italy? 

 “I left a dull rainy London day in mid - June 1960 bound for Herculaneum whose Director of the Excavations had invited me to run the summer dig for students. That fantastic experience of living and excavating in the ancient port city of Herculaneum took me up to the end of August. For two unforgetable weeks in September 1960, I attended the Rome Olympic Games where I thrilled to see the swimmers,John Conrads and his  sister Ilsa, win Gold Medals for Australia. In the following October I had a booking aboard a ship to sail from Southampton back to Sydney."

 “However, two Aussie friends had decided to live in Rome for one year and they asked me 'Kevin, wouldn't you like to live in Rome for a year?'"

 "Well, I'm supposed to be going home but, now that I think of it, it would be great to enjoy another year in Rome." That clinched it! The three of us rented a flat in the modern part of San Lorenzo and got jobs. I tutored an English teenager in the afternoons and taught young Italian adults English in the evenings. I got by on that but saved nothing. 

 “In June 1961, my Aussie friends flew off but poor me had to stay in Rome for lack of funds to fly anywhere. Gradually, through  the British Council, I obtained better teaching positions. However, during the summer of 1966, out of the blue, I landed the best-paid teaching job in Rome. I started teaching at ORT, Rome's Jewish School, in English Courses for Romanian immigrants being processed en route to North America. The courses were financed by the United States Escapee Program.

 “As ORT paid American salaries, my income quadrupled over night. Even more advantageous was the fact that I had all my mornings free and only taught four afternoons a week, This enabled me to enrol full time at the Accademia delle Belle Arti di Roma in November 1966. The Painting Course I entered lasted four years but I hadn't done three months of it when an unexpected thing happened; I sold my first painting! The person who bought it was none other than the noted Australian novelist, Morris West, who was living in Rome. 

 “The 60,000 Lire I got for the work allowed me one week in Paris where I saw the great Retrospective Exhibition:Homage à PABLO PICASSO. This hugely important show was set up in the Grand Palais, where his 'Peintures' were hung, while in the Petit Palais were shown his 'Dessins, Sculptures et Cèramiques.' It took me a whole two full days to study and enjoy my way through those amazing and visually powerful works. Dates, Feb. 9 and 10, 1967."

 “One work of Picasso's, in particular, struck me -- a large unfinished painting of a Harlequin. It showed how Picasso affirmed the structure of the figure on the canvas with a brush dipped in light burnt siena pigment, then he applied the colours over it and added the shadows and hightlight. I returned to Rome with my painting style radically changed!"

 “Even the great Picasso underwent a similar radical change in style.  A hundred years ago, this year, in 1917, Picasso visited the museums of Rome, Naples and Pompeii. The direct contact with the Greek and Roman masterpieces of marble and bronze sculptures, the exquisite and synthetic outlines of nude figures on Greek vases and incised into the backs of bronze mirrors exerted a huge impact on Picasso. His Cubism faded out as he delved into Neoclassicism. There can be no two painting styles so diverse as those of  Cubism and Neoclassism! And if you wish to see that difference, just visit the recently opened exhibition celebrating and displaying it at the Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome. It runs until Jan. 21, 2018.

 "Come also and see how I have evoked different feelings in my LANDSCAPES OF MOOD exhibition, at Studio Mineva, Via Pietro Micca 6, Rome from Oct. 21 to 4th November. Opening hours: 10:30 to 12 and 4:30 to 6.” Information:

    tel: 339 1960899