Ed Merlin Murray | Asthetic Studios
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Ed Merlin Murray

“I enjoy drawing more than anything else. I could happily draw for ten hours a day, every day (if I didn’t have loads of kids and dogs to look after). I love making things move too, whether via traditional animation techniques or digitally, in After Effects. I love print making, especially screen printing, but also Lino cuts. Basically anything involving ink and paper is pretty joyous.”

There are quadrants in the mind which Ed’s artwork delights – far beyond the fathoms of logical or coherent thought that occupy much of our day to day mundane thoughts. In these dimensions are artworks and illustrations, spiraling and ricocheting from Ed consciousness’s, sometimes prickling the fancies of the eternal questions of reality, or sometimes summoning arcane sciences from an alternate dimension, but always brandishing their peculiar brilliance in a-serious-but-not-all-too-serious manner that is distinctly ‘Ed’. More than anything, Ed is a creator, and art may very well be his way of coping with reality.

Early Days

Ed, short for Ed Merlin Murray, grew up in frigid rural wilds of North East Fife, near the coast of Scotland, and in North East Northumberland, near the coast of England. Born to artistic parents, Ed was raised surrounded by constant flux of artistic activity and creative endeavors. He attributes his strong sense of graphic design to his father, a theatre designer/director, and his love of fine lines to his mother, the botanical water color painter.

Ed was an outdoorsy child with a penchant for recklessness. Ed recalls that when he was ten “a favorite pursuit […] was exploring disused coal mines equipped with a box of matches and a penknife” and that he “bought matches in the way that I imagine other children bought sweets and chocolate - my ten pence pocket money went on a little box of Scottish Bluebells every time”. Being the wild and free child that he was, the institution of school was never a place of belonging for Ed.

He remarks, “I was a total nightmare at school. I fucking hated it. I was suspended 16 times from high school and expelled twice (they let me back in once, but I really didn’t want to be there). I’ve got some happy memories of that time, but they were all spent playing truant, hanging out in the woods in a mad shack my pals and I built, called The Church, experimenting with various inebriants to expand (and contract) our young minds.” Ed caused his fair share of trouble in school, recalling “one joyous afternoon, some friends and I dragged The Ogle Roller, which was a massive cast iron machine meant for flattening the cricket pitch, to the top of the ski slope and let it go. It flew down the steep hill and went straight through the chain link fence at the bottom, and crashed not just into, but also out the other side of the classroom building which they had foolishly built there” – an event which Ed surmises led to him completing the rest of his schooling from home. There is an energy in Ed’s work which feels distinctly familiar in this story – an uninhibited freedom of expression that finds its own place of belonging regardless of the status quo or what is expected.  

Becoming Merlin

Ed was always an artist, with a penchant for drawing, but was originally a musician by trade (teaching piano in Hong Kong), as “music was [his] main thing and most of my creative energy went into playing piano and keyboards”.  And yet, in 2012, Ed recalls the moment that transpired his shift into the visual arts:

“The main person I have to thank for my having ended up making visual art today is the boy on a bike who pulled out in front of me on a bike track in Hong Kong in 2012. I was going pretty fast, on a road bike, and chose to crash into a tree rather than hit the kid. I totally smashed up my left hand and had to wear a cast for months. I was living in Hong Kong at the time, making a living as a piano teacher, but now could no longer play. I was actually pretty happy to bow out of the world of piano tuition, having come to be fairly sick of the pressure placed on these poor kids to achieve grades, and I got a job as an English teacher. To replace my old creative outlet - the piano - I took up drawing in a feverish way.”

Channeling his creative energy into illustrations and visual artworks rather than music, Ed moved back to the UK in 2014 and eventually got into university in 2017 to study illustration, which he recalls as “the best thing he’s ever done”. He had his breakthrough moment when he received a commission from Atlantic Records during his second year to create a short animated music video for one of their artists (which he recalls having no idea at all of how to do such a thing, having to just yes and quickly gain the technical skills to finish the job). And since that moment – which he’s endlessly thankful for – he’s hasn’t been without work since.

“For me, being an artist simply means showing up, every day, and creating stuff."

Ed's Secret to Happiness

One of the experiences that shaped Ed, not only as an artist, but as a person, was bipolar disorder. He attributes his daily need to create things to the bipolar aspect of his brain – citing the need for daily creative aspect to “keep [his] mind from spiraling into insanity”.

Not only keeping sane, he says that, “It’s as if I’ve unlocked the secret to personal human happiness, and it’s such a simple one - move a pen around on some paper, every day”.

In this respect, art is not only an occupation, but an essential way of life for Ed, one which keeps him in his right state of mind by having a constant creative output. The disorder has led Ed to do much thinking on the nature of consciousness; even a brief glance at his colorful portfolio makes it clear that much of his art is informed by such ideas. And yet despite the seriousness of such topics, there is humor to be found in his work as well, as he doesn’t take himself too seriously. In his own words, he describes his artistic style using words like “lowbrow and pop surrealism”.

Ed has a constant output of creative works, reaching tens of thousands of viewers on Instagram. He has published a book as well, titled Mysterium Conscientia, a book of drawings “which discuss the mysteries of human consciousness via the worlds of neuroscience, metaphysics, esoteric mysticism, and a whole load of other arcane sciences”, that is currently on his website. 2020 is an exciting year for Ed as well, with numerous projects lined up, including a piece of “a piece of walkabout theatre, inspired by my creepy doll sculptures, which I hope to tour around some festivals in the summer”.  

For Ed, being an artist is not only a way of life, but also essential to his being and snaity. Whether through dementedly deformed baby dolls, or intricately and beautiful brushed ink works, Ed consistently amuses, befuddles, and mesmerizes his audience through the fantastical playground which is his consciousness.