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Thursday 19 July 2018

What Lies Beneath: Hare by Ciaran Murphy

Hare by Ciaran Murphy Oil on canvas, courtesy of the artist

Hare by Ciaran Murphy Oil on canvas
Hare by Ciaran Murphy Oil on canvas

Niall MacMonagle

Solo exhibitions in Dublin, Amsterdam, New York and Chicago mean Ciaran Murphy, from Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, has stepped onto the world stage. IMMA, through the Hennessy Art Fund, has just acquired his work, L-2, a large, subtle, luminous piece.

What connection exists between Ciaran Murphy, who grew up in the West of Ireland in the 1980s and Ciaran Murphy, today?

"For better or worse, I've always felt like myself!"

A painting such as A Room With Walls is beautifully abstract but Murphy also paints figuratively. There's a Wolves painting from 2010 and this Hare from 2005.

Murphy says that he has "always played with the tension" between realistic and abstract, what he calls "an effort at representing abstract things, realistically".

Is this an actual hare or an imagined one?

"It's my wish that the painting would prompt that very question!"

Brilliant brushstrokes create a strokable warm white hare resting on a differently rendered white. Its black eye with a hint of green is alert. Remove the hare, and the background and branch make for an abstract work. The very different Josef Albers and Paul Nash are two of his favourite artists, and inspiring teachers Sarah Farrell at GTI Galway and Mick Wilson at IADT were important influences, but when making a painting,

"I'm not always quite sure why exactly I'm drawn to certain subject matter. I'm often feeling around in the dark. In hindsight what drew me to make that particular image of a hare was the way it exits in a kind of interspace between so many oppositions - living/dead, nature/culture, subject/object, interior/exterior."

For Murphy, "the appearance of things from the natural world, and animals in particular, stems from a fascination with taxonomies" and he's interested in "the naming and representing of things".

His research includes "images from medieval Islamic scientific drawings, spaces like natural history museums, stills from nature documentaries; there's something about the 'unknowable' qualities of the natural world that interest me."

And for Ciaran Murphy, oil on canvas is the thing: "The slowness of the medium both in its execution and in its viewing." A hare can zip along at 70km an hour. But not here, not now. Slow, now, take it easy.


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