This car has its own built-in Helen Amy Murray art gallery


This car has its own built-in Helen Amy Murray art gallery
Helen Amy Murray

Published: Sat 8 Jun 2019, 1:15 PM

Last updated: Wed 12 Jun 2019, 5:04 PM

DON'T HAVE TIME to get down to your favourite art gallery for the latest exhibition? Well, if you're lucky enough to own a Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII, your own bespoke exhibit can come to you and take up residence in your car. That's correct, if you purchase the company's flagship luxury vehicle, it will be equipped with a space called The Gallery - an application of glass, running uninterrupted across the fascia - behind which your own commission from a world-renowned artist of your choice will be staged. So, not only do you become a patron of the arts, the one-off masterpiece you desire is yours for a private viewing every day as you motor along.
British artist Helen Amy Murray, one of the few elite craftspeople composing The Gallery pieces, was recently at Abu Dhabi Motors in the capital to tell us more. Helen is a textile designer who sculpts most frequently leather, suede and their faux counterparts, into unique three-dimensional decorative surfaces and compelling works of art.
What made you decide on predominantly leather as a medium for your artistic expression?
I chose leather, as I wanted to create surfaces that had structure, form and natural qualities. My first ever commission was for Lady Aliai Forte, to upholster a vintage wingback armchair in green leather covered with hand sculpted flowers with pink relief details. I work with other materials such as silk, felt and some more innovative fabrics but leather has a wonderfully original quality due to its natural markings and finish and so I still turn to it for my artistic upholstery and some of my wall based artworks such as an art commission I created for the Longchamp flagship boutique in Paris where I created an installation on the staircase wall using leather in diamond shaped panels, both to create a special design and also to make the full use of the hides.
Tell us more about working on The Gallery project?
I was approached in 2015 for The Gallery. It allows the customer to have a 'one of one' artwork in materials you would not ordinarily find in a car. My first Gallery piece was titled 'Whispered Muse' and it was commissioned by a customer who allowed it to be revealed at the Geneva Motor show in 2018.
You have created two new works with Rolls-Royce, in particular one inspired by the dunes of the UAE. How do you describe the piece?
The Sandscape theme was developed especially for an exclusive Suhoor event with Abu Dhabi Motors over Ramadan. The linear nature of sand formations lend themselves particularly well to the three-dimensional quality of my work. I hand sculpted the linear details in various directions to create different planes, and a play on light and shadow. I chose to use two colours of soft matt suede, layered to create a subtle contrast. The colour inspiration came from looking at photographs of dunes to bring the natural qualities of the desert inside the Phantom.
How did it feel to be in the UAE presenting your work? What is the country's reputation in art circles? Would you like to do more here?
It was exciting as it was the first time I have visited Dubai and Abu Dhabi despite creating work for clients here for over a decade. I would love to do more work here. We often work with London-based interior designers for UAE projects and therefore have fewer opportunities to visit. I am currently working on a project for the new Royal Atlantis residences, where owners are given the opportunity to upgrade their interior with a bespoke Helen Amy Murray artwork.
From where do you get your inspiration for your designs? Nature appears to play a big part, is that a passion?
It has always been nature - the most intricate forms, patterns and geometry link back to the natural world. I think that is why people respond to my work on such an emotional level. I love pattern and repetition and of course my other biggest passion is sculptural form and surface relief and I love the way the different levels create a play of depth, light and shadow.
Do you have a single commission or project you remember particularly fondly? Why this one?
My most memorable project was probably the opportunity to create a whole Helen Amy Murray universe for all four walls and the ceiling of a very special room in a private superyacht. It was a brilliant opportunity for me to create an artwork installation without the restrictions of scale and I was given 100 per cent creative freedom so, needless to say, there were lots of beautiful trees, flowers and birds!
In the world of bespoke design, is there an upper limit to what is possible to create, or would you take on any challenge?
I love a challenge! The Gallery for the Phantom is a great example as it encouraged me to think about working on a much smaller scale and on an unusually shaped and curved surface. There is a huge amount of prototyping to test how the design reacts to the curves and the different materials and processes I want to use. It's a very different way of working for myself and my studio and we are continuing to push the boundaries of what we can do. 

By David Light

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Helen creating art with leather
Helen creating art with leather

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