Interview with Gregory Malphurs: Rethinking Portraiture

Janice K. Johnson

“My work is a deconstruction recipe of emotions, colours, stories, and inspirations reflecting life with its troubles and complications…”

By Rise Art | 07 Nov 2022

Gregory Malphurs has recently joined Rise Art, bringing his conceptual portraits to the platform. Gregory’s work offers the viewer a look inside his subject’s psyche rather than a literal depiction of the physical. His work pushes the boundaries of traditional portrait painting by employing concepts of collage with multiple mediums to create richly complex inside-out portraits.

Pastel Study 10 (Alex), 2022, soft pastels on velour paper, 48.3 x 35.6cm


How would you describe your style and the work you create?

My work focuses on rethinking portraiture by restructuring the way a subject is represented. Making a painting or drawing that is an exact visual likeness to its subject doesn’t make any sense to me. And it’s easy. Why not take a photograph? It’s much harder to figure out what is inside a subject and bring that to the surface.

My work is a deconstruction recipe of emotions, colours, stories, and inspirations reflecting life with its troubles and complications — each part and piece of a puzzle making it whole.

From an inside-out view, the work reveals a universal common bond of personal struggle…that life is a series of fragments that we have to make sense of – introspection, fragmentation, complexity of being, dealing with conflict.

The Influencer, 2022, oil and graphite on Arches Oil paper, 76.2 x 55.9cm


Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind your practice

Intuitively I feel the need to always challenge myself to go further, not to accept things at face value and never settle. And…a need to go deeper and look at the places in ourselves we would rather avoid. And I think that’s what sets my work apart.

Burning In Water, 2022, oil, graphite and photo print on Arches Oil paper, 76.2 x 55.9cm


How do you go about choosing the subjects and scenes for your paintings?

I look for subjects that convey some sort of complexity. And often I layer several subjects to achieve the right level of visual emotion.

Mad Child, 2022, oil and graphite on paper, 111.8 x 76.2cm


How has your practice evolved in recent years?

The soft pastel drawings on velour paper that are featured exclusively on Rise are a definite evolution of my work progressing from oil and mixed media. Not that I’ll ever stop those other practices. It’s just another way for me to explore and express my interests.

Pastel Study 7 (Andy), 2022, soft pastel on velour paper, 44.5 x 35.6cm


What’s an average day like in your studio?

Each morning I have coffee and handle any administrative duties like answering emails, doing interviews (like this one), website updates, Instagram posts, etc. Around 10am I head into the studio to work. I usually keep five to seven different pieces going at the same time. This allows pieces to dry while I work on others.

Gregory making some new pieces and parts (@gregorymalphurs)


What/Who are your key influences?

I am very inspired by Francis Bacon. I never get tired of looking at his work and the unique way he interpreted his subjects.

George Condo for the freedom of his mark making and his understanding of composition.

And Nathaniel Mary Quinn for his completely original, fresh take on portraiture.

Pastel Study 16 (Francis Bacon), 2022, soft pastels on velour paper, 69.9 x 49.5cm


Who are some Rise Art artists with work you’re enjoying at the moment?

I’m obsessed with the work Iain Andrews. When I think of the best in abstract – his work is everything I can imagine.

Also Keith Ashcroft’s work. His way of drawing the viewer in – creating a sense of place but also of mystery.

Pastel Study 19 (Dali 1950), 2022, Soft pastels on velour paper, 69.9 x 50.2cm


Are you currently working on any exciting new projects?

I am! I am preparing for the Other Art Fair in September and right now I am working on launching a “Masterclass For Artists” on Patreon. I’ll be sharing pro tips for artists, interviews, step-by-step tutorials, live in studio feeds and mentoring.

It launches Sept. 1 here: Masterclass for Artists

Birth of Liberty and Holy Tribe headed to the framer in preparation for @theotherartfair (@gregorymalphurs)

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