Artist Makes Intricate Cut-Out Pieces From Unusual Material

Electrical tape is hardly the most glamorous of art materials on offer, some might say, but Yorkshire-born visual artist Ben Murphy has taken up his scalpel and tape to prove us wrong. The result is these beautifully intricate monochrome pieces resembling woodcuts, set in resin: evocative, esoteric, and sultry.

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Ben developed this skill whilst completing a masters degree in contemporary and fine art, and then, “it just stuck with me – if you’ll excuse the pun.” Well, just this once.

“It is an exercise in balance more than anything,” Ben tells us about his composition process. He rarely sketches out his work beforehand, and much of his inspiration is literary, from Borges to Beckett – check out his Instagram for a closer look at his work.
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Ben has worked with a number of charities, from Anti-Slavery International to The Teenage Cancer Trust), and his unusual work has been in demand at internationally renowned institutions like Sotheby’s and the Saatchi gallery. But we’re still fascinated by how it works, so we reached out to Ben to explore.

The Plus: Could you talk us through the secret of your tape-art production process?
Ben Murphy:
I start by cutting tape into thin strips and using these to draw lines. The curves are built up in part by bending the tape, and in part by layering it up and trimming off the excess. Once I have a basic outline I start blocking and cutting into areas, then removing pieces from the blocked in areas. Once it’s finished I set the whole thing in resin, to make it permanent.

TP: You’ve said you’re often inspired to make art representing daily life – what makes it such a good muse for you?
BM:
I like the simplicity of it. I don’t want to sensationalise anything and create something that people can’t relate to.

TP: What’s the appeal of working strictly in monochrome?
BM:
I’ve been doing it for so long that it would now be more of a challenge for me to work in colour. When I first started I tried to use colours in my work, but I was never happy with the results, so I decided to abandon it forever.

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TP: The female form features a fair amount too – is this a conscious decision you could talk us through?
BM:
The nudity is more of a study of figuration than it is titillation. I’m trying to represent what I think is the most beautiful naturally occurring landscape, whilst also instilling in the work a sinister character that isn’t immediately evident.

TP: What artistic influences do you look to when working in a new medium such as electrical tape?
BM:
People often mention my name alongside Aubrey Beardsley, whom I like, but wouldn’t consider a particularly strong inspiration. I like to do a lot of lino-cuts and woodcuts, which both create a similar aesthetic to tape.

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TP: Finally – there are almost always humans in your pieces, and yet almost never open and detailed eyes. Why is this?
BM:
I use it as a way of making the emotions of the work’s subjects less readable, so as to leave the artwork as open to interpretation as possible, whilst simultaneously keeping cohesion and direction. My work is all about fragility, and the potential of imminent disaster.

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