Jacky Murtaugh- Artist Interview

Jacky Murtaugh is an award winning contemporary artist working in oils and acrylics. After leaving England in 2009, she returned to painting and has built a reputation for the unconventional and extraordinary. Known for her vibrant and richly coloured paintings of nature, sparkling renditions of water and blinding representations of sunlight, she captures the fleeting moments and a sense of the ephemeral. This week we caught up with her to find out about her artistic process and inspirations.

Jacky with a work in progress.

What makes you want to create art?

I have a deep connection with the land and an inherent need to express myself. From an early age I interpreted what I saw around me into my own visual language. Since moving from England to Australia in 2009 I have incorporated new experiences into my work. There can often be a bittersweet underlying theme happening where the love of a new land is contrasted with the distance of despair. This intensely personal combination is applied to canvas using oil and acrylic, painted in thin layers, each revealing a hint of something new that lies beneath. A passion for new beginnings and sadness for a land departed is conveyed in many of the works and a reference to home is frequently present, wherever that may be.

We love your painting ‘Beneath it All’ . What inspired this one? Can you explain the technique you used to create this piece?

I have a strong connection to trees from a conservational and aesthetic point of view, being drawn to their organic patterns and entangled vegetation. The inspiration for this piece came from a particular tree on Granite Island where the multitudes of branches made it difficult to see where they began and ended. The use of a heart shape at the centre of the painting is symbolic of my deep emotional attachment to the land with the entwined branches symbolising the complexities of life. Painted in oil over a base of red acrylic, I use paint sparingly, regularly wiping back the layers then adding them again to give interest and depth to the colour, pattern and shape.

Do you like to take on commission work?

Yes, I have carried out many commissions over the years and try to accommodate the client as best I can without compromising my own style and integrity. This can sometimes be a difficult process but so far has been successful.

What are 3 pieces of art have had an influence on you? 


Snow Storm (1842) by J W M Turner. Still my favourite today as it was at the time I studied art in London in the 90s. You can feel the atmospheric conditions and the unbridled force of nature in this piece. His late works have had a profound influence on my work where I strive to replicate nature in an unintentional style. As though the paint landed on the canvas by accident.


Mulberry Tree (1889) by Vincent Van Gogh. Trees feature often in my work and so the love of tree paintings. Van Gogh’s work dances with energy and rhythm. This is what I like to inject into my work, a powerful vibration of life.


The Gray Tree (1912) by Piet Mondrian. Here the patterns of the positive and negative spaces create a rhythm and harmony. It is important to me that all my works are harmonious in an understated, natural style.

Who is your favourite Australian Artist and why? 

Joshua Yeldham. In his large scale paintings he portrays his connection with the land in a deeply emotional way. All his works integrate pattern and rhythm in a sensual and very appealing style.

SALA award 2

Jacky receiving her SALA award for Austral Emerging Artist 2013.

You can buy Jacky’s art online here.

Venice Biennale – Around the (art) world in 10 installations

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