Craft International No. 85, 2012, 
Writer:   Art Curator Richard Maude

Ecological Case Studies
By altering the scale and abstracting the forms, the works
of Ulan Murray reflect nature’s mathematical structures
and explore the fragility and complexity of diverse life forms
inhabiting our common ecological systems.


As an artmaker Ulan Murray’s business is to find elemental essences. He is able to engage his celebration of the beauty and intricacy of the natural world by knowing well the properties of his materials and tools but, equally importantly, the objects and places he’s referencing as subjects: he ‘tunes in’ to his environment.


The studio he has established consists of several, loosely defined spaces to nurture and produce the objects; he works surrounded by a yard full of preferred materials (all cast-offs from here and there ready for re-use) and a generous workshop with a wide variety of tools.


When I’m in the presence of a Murray sculpture I often have a multi-sensory experience; apart from the immediate visual there is a kind of emanation from it, an oscillation of sound, as if the object and its placement draws this aural energy from the surrounding environment. The work then acts as a kind of transmission tower, narrow-casting ‘messages’ of interpreted sensibilities from the earth to those within range.


Murray’s work seems to come from the ground up and a kind of imperceptible ‘humm’ is emitted - I can’t quite hear it, but I’m aware of its presence. Intentional or not, he could not achieve this by simply rendering naturalistic, look-alike objects. Rather he turns both the broad- and fine-tuning knobs into the environment he references; his visual cues are identifiable, strong, solitary: the tree, a seedpod, contours of the land. Their singular, almost sentient strength also draws on the endlessly looping and overlapping cycles of the natural world.


The sculpture, while abstracted, not only finds ground in the obvious pictorial elements of these subjects, but we can also see the same overwhelming robustness alongside the fine complexity that we observe in the natural world.


An understanding of these scales of difference and sameness, of worlds within worlds and of the inter-dependence of life-forms seems to be at the heart of Murray’s working method. He appears to use a kind of mathematical lens (perhaps inherited from his horticultural studies) to understand germination and growth structures as well as the superficial randomness of the bush alongside the delicate reciprocity that makes the continuation of life and culture possible.


By Curator Richard Maude from Craft International No. 85, 2012