Nike Cortez with Benjamin Murphy | Footpatrol Discussions

The Cortez is a silhouette that’s steep within the history books of Nike. Whether it’s the legacy it made within the world of sport or its amount of appearances as the must have accessory within TV or pop culture, the Cortez is a sleek runner with a simplistic approach.

After multiple collaborations from some of Nike’s most sought after partners, from sacai and Union LA, its return is only looking stronger for ’23. Now with a series of inline colour ways coming to light, we celebrate this launch by catching up with visual artist and writer, Benjamin Murphy.

Much like the Cortez, Benjamin uses a medium that’s renowned within it’s own world, charcoal. Using this medium, Murphy explores themes of polarise, time, memory and contrast in its rawest state on canvas.

Take a closer look at our visit to his studio in London below and make sure to check out the latest from Nike and the Cortez online here!

Footpatrol: hey Ben, hope you’re well, and thank you for taking the time to fit us into your schedule! Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and the works that you do?

Benjamin Murphy: I’m an artist and writer from Yorkshire, now living between London and Helsinki.

FP: We understand you recently relocated to Finland, has this changed the dynamic of your workflow? For better or worse?

BM: It’s maybe too early to tell, or too late – I’ve been living between the two places for a few years now. Overall as a country its definitely colder and darker, so it could be argued that this has made its way into my work.

FP: Based on your earliest art pieces, what has been the evolutionary catalyst for you and your style?

BM: The biggest evolutionary catalyst is discomfort I think. The key element in any creative act is is the pursuit of evolution. When things stop evolving its a perfect sign that something drastic needs to happen, even if that drastic step feels like it could set you back a bit, or take you on some diversion that you aren’t sure will succeed, ultimately the interesting work is found from a place of discovery, and by getting yourself lost. This isn’t possible from a place of comfort.

FP: Can you elaborate on your creative process’?

BM: Expanding on the point above, it’s important to allow for failures to happen, or to actively encourage them to happen as a way of getting them out of the way. For this reason I introduce a lot of chaos to the process by working with a medium that I cant erase or paint out (the canvas is unprimed so any mark is there for good), and by doing things like leaving the works on the floor to pick up charcoal dust organically and in a way that is totally out of my control. Obviously this means that a lot of the work doesn’t work, and a lot of it gets destroyed with never having been seen. It’s a necessary part of the process though, so I celebrate the failures as they prove that the quality control is high and that things aren’t becoming formulaic, or safe.

FP: How do you think your work effectively communicates with the viewer? Is there a deeper conversation to be had? Or is it aesthetically driven?

BM: I think that the “meaning” of a work of art has much more to do with the viewer than it does with the artist to be honest. Everyone who looks at it will read it differently, and my interpretation of what something means is no more valid than anyone else’s. For that reason I try to make things fairly instinctually, and leave the theorising over meaning to others. It means what you want it to mean, and I don’t want to divert or contradict that by telling you what I think it means because who am I to say.

Oscar Wilde once said that the person who understands a painting least of all is the person who made it and I agree, often I don’t even try.

FP: is there ever any trial and error? Or do you know exactly what you want?

BM: I never know how something will turn out when I start it no. Whenever I try to work in that way it’s a disaster. There is trial-and-error in the sense that some of the things I make are good and some are not.

FP: talk to me about flowers… how and why does botany feature so prominently in your work?

BM: I wanted to introduce some chaos into the work, and relinquish some control over the aesthetic qualities, as my work before this was so precise and clean. Plants are a good way to explore representation within a work without having to stay too safe. Things can be distorted past recognition without becoming surreal, which is a good place to be when you want as much freedom as possible without moving into abstraction. Someone pointed out to me yesterday that I tend to paint houseplants rather than those out in nature, and that it’s about “The wild, confined” which I thought was nice, and much more apt and poetic than I could have ever put it myself.

FP: If YOU were a plant, what would you be?

BM: a medium-sized Galia melon.

FP: As we’re also here to celebrate the Nike Cortez, a shoe that in the past 50 years has been a perfect candidate for outrage, resilience, and style within culture. With these words in mind, what legacy do you want for your work?

BM: Legacy is not for me to decide, and as long as my work is talked about then I’m happy. Loved or hated is fine, but the worst thing is when something arouses no response at all. Id much rather be polarising than universally liked.

FP: thank you for taking the time to have us Ben, it’s been great fun! And if there are any words of wisdom you wish to bestow on the community feel free to do so.

BM: Wisdom is something I’m probably yet to achieve, but maybe one day.

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