Saturday 15 December 2018

What Lies Beneath: Drop by Eimear Murphy

Drop by Eimear Murphy, Reinforced concrete, Courtesy of the artist

Drop by Eimear Murphy
Drop by Eimear Murphy

Niall MacMonagle

Concrete - 9,000 years old - built the Colosseum, built Hadrian's Wall, built Sydney Opera House, built Cork's Church of Christ the King, built UCD's Watertower, built The National Gallery's Millennium Wing and - most amazing and ingenious of all - the Pantheon in Rome, with its 43m-high domed, concrete roof, built 120-124 AD.

Concrete is here to stay. The Berlin Wall had to be pulled down.

Artist Eimear Murphy, who is in her 20s, has "been itching to make a big fluid mark with concrete" and a commissioned piece by Dublin Port Authority eased that itch.

"The Port was being regenerated and I loved the idea of all the seen and unseen concrete that would go into that and how this sculpture, Drop, would rise from that utilitarian concrete."

Growing up outside Dundalk "in a very hands-on household", Murphy, aged six, wanted to be a carpenter.

"My father loved wood-working and encouraged me to use tools from an early age and pushed me to do things for myself."

A "fantastic art department at St Vincent's Secondary School" meant art became her focus and a JP McManus All-Ireland Scholarship led to four years at NCAD and First Class Honours.

Drop, with invaluable support and help from the Roadstone Concrete technical team, was poured in three stages into a wooden frame of reinforced flexible plywood.

"It weighs in at five tonnes - one hundred times my own weight," she says.

This heavy presence sits flat but has beautifully sensuous curves and flow, and Murphy tells me "it connects to the visual history of Dublin Port, the stylised spout at the top is an allusion to funnelling water".

Sensitive to surfaces, she likes how it's there in all weathers.

"When it rains, the rainwater will make its own design." Drop. Raindrop. "Concrete is complicated. I wanted a light colour and its location meant it would have to fight against salt air."

Murphy admires Gerda Fromel - "her Sails at DIT, Dundalk, is a huge steel sail which plays with sunlight and water in the pool below" - and Richard Serra, Rachel Whiteread.

Male sculptor, female sculptor. Are there differences?

"I think my gender has affected this process. Sometimes it raises eyebrows. "When it does, I say: 'It might be easier if I were a man. I need a crane to lift five tonnes but a man could easily lift it himself!'"

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