‘My passion keeps me going,’ says local artist who found his niche on Cardiff’s streets

Malcolm Murphy swapped spray cans for paint brushes and found joy in showcasing the streets of Cardiff through fine art

Cardiff artist Malcolm Murphy stands in Cathays Gallery, with his fine art paintings behind him
Fine artist Malcolm Murphy stands with a collection of his paintings, each one telling the story of his life through scenes of Cardiff’s streets.

Fine artist Malcolm Murphy is beaming with pride as he walks around Cathays Gallery. His artwork hangs on the walls surrounding him, each one turning mundane moments into something magical, encompassing the spirit of Cardiff and Murphy’s tumultuous journey into the fine art world.

The 52-year-old has launched his latest exhibition, One Man Town, here. Running until 23 December, it’s an ode to his relationship with his hometown, Cardiff.

From urban beginnings

Murphy always wanted to be an artist. He said: “I recall telling my mum, ‘I’m going to be an artist when I’m older!’ I knew that’s where life would take me.”

His love for art began at 14-years-old, after watching a television programme about New York city’s graffiti. “I was just taken with it, absolutely taken with it,” he said. So, he saved up his money, bought some cans and had a go.

He said: “I was breakdancing at the time and graffiti was in the background. It was fascinating. I joined forces with a few friends, we called ourselves The Clash of Styles. We’d sneak out and do some graffiti art together.”

However, the late night thrills soon came to an end when he was caught by police and sent on a day release scheme in Cogan as punishment.

Cardiff artist Malcolm Murphy stands in Cathays Gallery, with his fine art paintings behind him
Local fine artist is a picture of pride as his body of work is currently on display in Cathays Gallery.
Finding his niche

Murphy said he learnt the craft of sign work while in Cogan. The punishment led to an apprenticeship, which led to a full time job painting signs and commercial murals. He then called Penarth home for ten years. 

Although Murphy still does sign work today, he found real interest in the fine art side of the craft. Inspired, he bought some oil paints and “fell in love with the process.”

Murphy’s current exhibition is made up of fine art oil paintings of Cardiff’s streets. Each painting is accompanied by his memories, telling his life story through his work. 

The inspiration is always there for me in Cardiff

Whether he’s painting in his Splott-based studio or on the streets, Cardiff is Murphy’s hometown and muse. “When I’m on my walks there’s just so much to see,” he said. “The inspiration is always there for me in Cardiff.”

Listen as Murphy shares the story behind one of his paintings
Reward over royalties

Despite the increasing cost of living and threats to the arts industry, Murphy’s exhibition is free to enter. This reflects his ethos that painting is a privilege. He views any money made from his craft as “the cherry on top.”

Equipped with a passion to paint, Murphy can spend up to nine hours a day perfecting his craft. However he confessed that he’s almost given up at times. “I remember an occasion where I decided to just forget all about it. So, I was putting my paintings in the attic and I fell through the ceiling,” he laughed. “I thought I’d never paint again, but then I kept going.”

Now he’s back on track and hopes to continue painting Cardiff for as long as he can. “My art is for me and that’s what sees me through the lows,” he said, “my passion keeps me going.”


  • Find something you’re passionate about. If you’re not passionate, you’ll never succeed.”
  • Discover what you’re good at. Try different styles and see what works for you.”
  • Learn from your mistakes. The more you make, the better you will get.”