Even from a very early age, Keith Murray was enthralled by the idea of things bigger and more enduring than himself and his place in the universe. He saw a beautiful, contrasting, authentic drama of life playing with purpose all around him and was compelled to tell that truth in picture form to anyone who would listen.
He didn’t have long to wait for his audience. Murray began oil painting at age ten, and by the time he was in his early teens, he was doing portrait commissions. The challenge of capturing that elusive “life quality” of his subject on the canvas became his highest aim and truest test of his skill.
Technical ability is very important to me. It’s something I’ll always strive to master,” Murray once remarked. “But even more importantly is that special … something, that soul, that essence, that spark of a subject that can’t be captured by studious execution alone. It has to be seen, felt and held in the heart as the most noble attribute. Only in putting that quality first can an artist hope to be able to channel its energy onto the canvas. And without it, any work, no matter how grand or epic or skillfully done, is dead.”
Murray graduated from Southeastern Oklahoma State University with a degree in Art. He went on to attend graduate school at West Texas State University in Canyon, Texas for one year. But his quest for that “life beyond the image” would not find fruition until 1993 when he began studying with classical realist, Kirk Richards, in Amarillo. For the next six years, Murray faced the daunting task of unlearning much of what he had been taught by the system. It was through this rigorous training that Murray began to find his focus and direction, and not surprisingly, his art began to blossom.
Over the years, Murray's work has been seen in galleries and in a wide array of shows and exhibits. While living in Amarillo, Murray won Best of Show in the prestigious Best of the Southwest show with his apocalyptic still life “Day of Reckoning.” He was also chosen, with a handful of other artists, to exhibit during a NATO conference also held in Amarillo. Murray was invited to exhibit his work at the Oklahoma State Capital where he had a solo exhibit in the Governor’s Gallery and some years later had another exhibit in the Capital in the East Gallery.
At a glance, it’s easy to see the strong classical quality of Murray’s work. Though highly traditional, his paintings never fail to translate as fresh and lively. Capturing “the spark”, as he puts it, is key. And when filtered through the complex, mental latticework of symbolism, that inner spark yields paintings with the kind of presence that, despite constantly changing fad and fashion, will undoubtedly stand the test of time. y