Grace McMurray

What is your typical studio routine?
Currently, I make sure I have lots of snacks and check on my plants.  I try and get any emails or research out of the way and then I start to work on the knitting machine or drawing board.  I have music, a podcast or an audiobook on my phone.  When I start it is hard to stop because it takes so much preparation and motivation to even begin, so I might be working an hour, or it might be 5 hours.  Working is tough on my back, as soon as I finish, I head home and will finish small tasks in bed.
How long have you been working as an artist?
I made work when I was a teenager, looking back I really needed it because I was going through some very heavy events that still to this day I can’t talk about.  Doing a foundation degree at Newry Tech was very informative for me, I am proud of everything I made because I was trying to work out who I was, I look back with real fondness at that time in my life.  I lost confidence after art college, I worked really hard but felt jaded by the sheer volume of rejection and cost of being an artist.  It is a tough landscape, but you find your communities and creatives and try to figure out your place.
Is it difficult being back in the studio after an exhibition? 
I should rest after I have finished an exhibition, but I am always making in order to not lose momentum.  I am trying to be gentler with myself.  I tend to have lots of different ideas, end up buying tons of materials and then never actually make anything with them or I start to make something and realise it’s not working so I move onto the next thing.
What do you dislike about the artworld?
I dislike the lack of help or promotion of artists.  I think it feels like there are so little opportunities that everyone is scrambling for the same things and that creates the illusion of competition.   I think Belfast is great in that lots of artists feel a sense of community and are trying to help and promote one another, everyone deserves opportunities, support and funding.
What is the best advice you have been given as an artist?
To have fun with your art, inject humour and personality into it.  To place no expectations on yourself, you don’t owe anyone anything, your work may not be someone’s cup of tea but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.  There will always be someone who will feel like you are speaking on their behalf or will feel that you are affirming their experience.
What jobs have you done, other than being an artist?
I was a waitress, barista, worked in a cinema, HMV, Supervalu, Primary School, Nursing Home, University, Garage, restaurant kitchen, hospital, education board, jewellers, transport network, graphic designers, Art Gallery and Art Studio.  You name it, I have done it, you have to do whatever you can to pay the bills.  I do not dream of labour but a favourite job was being in charge of the Pick ‘n’ mix stand at the cinema.
About The Artist
Grace McMurray reconstitutes ideas of drawing and traditional craft methods through the relationship between the digital and the handmade.  Employing geometric patterns and symmetry to construct a soothing familiarity, the ostentation of the work strives for visibility. The objects exude order and purpose but it’s a performative wellness to distract from the illusion of control.  Through this deeply personal work reflexive upon the spaces they occupy and exist in, McMurray finds beauty in the underside, the exposed edges and the overlooked.  As such, creating textile installations symbolising the private sphere of the domestic.  Such labour-intensive work unravels notions of social conditioning, gendered labour and its value.

She studied BA (Hons) Fine Art Sculpture, Wimbledon College of Art (2005-08). Selected Solo Exhibition: Woven Polyhedra, University of Ulster, Belfast (2018). Selected Group Exhibitions include: Irish Modernisms, CCA Derry; Royal Academy Summer Exhibition (2019); Jerwood Drawing Prize, Jerwood Space, London (2015); Synthetic Aesthetics, Leitrim Sculpture Centre, Manorhamilton, Ireland (2012); Watershed, Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre, Hong Kong (2010). Awards include: Turner Prize 2021 with Array Collective

Exhibitions: Irish Modernisms at CCA Derry 2021, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2019

Interview: Butterfly & Bee (p.36-37)


Instagram: @graciemcm


  1. Infinity Room – Acrylic Wool

2. We aren’t on the same wavelength – Acrylic Paint, Satin Ribbon, Polycarbonate

3. Irish Modernisms Installation View – ‘Portal’ Glitter and Velvet Ribbon, Frame and ‘Nest’ Headboard, Satin Ribbon, Polycotton.  Image          by CCA Derry & Paola Bernardelli