Ross Muir came to art relatively late in life, aged 30, painting first as a hobby. But it didn’t take long for his raw talent and ingenious creativity immediately to shine through.
His work focuses on altered replications of famous artists and imagery. And in 2018, his original painting of the Dutch impressionist Vincent van Gogh, entitled Square Gogh, went viral within a matter of days.
We caught up with Ross ahead of his new solo exhibition at Maddox Gallery.
Were you into art at school?
No – I didn’t enjoy art at school. It all seemed so distant from me. I didn’t see how I could have anything in common with Di Vinci or Vermeer. That is something I try and address in my paintings now.
I create a bridge between the past and present by adding an element to historical artworks that we can all relate to.
What did you do before you became an artist?
I struggled to keep down a job. I worked in IT for a bit and I worked on building sites but nothing really seemed to fit.
I do remember at that time that I could always do well at the creative aspects of any job I was given. I was good at making things and using my hands, so those jobs I can say did help me in becoming an artist.
Talk us through how you found art?
I was gifted an art set about ten years ago and I became obsessed. I would paint at every chance I had. It means everything to me. Painting has given me a voice without having to say anything at all, which is very powerful.
When did it dawn you could do it for a job?
About a year in was when I first knew I could do this full time. I had been painting in every spare moment I could, and my friend came to my house to see what I had been making.
He sat me down and told me that he thought I could do it professionally. That’s when I believed I could be an artist for a living.
Who are your biggest artistic influences?
I love Rembrandt. I am inspired by his craftsmanship and the way he paints light and dark. I also like he was considered to be a bit of a rebel, so I see a lot of myself in him.
Who has been the most difficult to imitate?
The hardest thing is to switch between genres. Before I start to paint an artwork inspired by an artist, I consume as much information about them as I can. I don’t just want to learn their style but I want to get into their mindset.
If you could collect the work of any contemporary artist – regardless of market value – who would you choose and why?
I love Jean-Michel Basquiat. He was an underdog who had a tough time in life. I can relate to that. His work is raw and authentic.
Talk us through ‘Jist Gogh Hame’?
During the pandemic, I was approached by a company that specialises in billboard art. They had seen my work online and wanted me to create a piece to display around Glasgow.
I like all my artwork to come naturally, so it didn’t feel right to create an entirely new work. I played with adding an overlay of words to ‘Square Gogh’ – a painting that had gone viral just one year before. My friend suggested ‘Jist Gogh Hame’. People loved it and for the second time, the work was shared across social media. I did a print release that helped to raise funds for foodbanks in Glasgow. It was good to know I could help to do some good in a time that was hard for so many people.
Then the Van Gogh Museum posted it – it was amazing to have it recognised by a group so closely connected to the artist.
Talk us through the new exhibition, ‘23: A Brush With Redemption’?
This body of work is everything I’ve been working towards so far. I have had time to develop my skills and I have studied each artist carefully.
The number 23 is special to me as it marks the anniversary of my mother’s death. After her passing, I would see it everywhere and I felt like it was a sign. I started hiding it in my paintings and the collection also has 23 artworks. In many ways, this show is for her.
These paintings are my redemption. I find salvation in painting. It lets me express myself in a way I could never do with words.
What are you working on next?
I am working on trying to enjoy things in the moment. I often find looking ahead is no use to anyone. There is no grand plan, but I know I will continue to paint. I will have to see what inspires me next.
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Ross Muir’s next solo exhibition, 23: A Brush with Redemption, will open at Maddox Gallery, 9 Maddox Street, W1S 2QE on the 12 May 2022.