Dialogue between the existing strands of an artists opus can be as important an attribute as the singular status of the individual works, something which is built over time and commitment, forged and harnessed in equal measure. Indeed it might not be an intended consequence, but it is the sign of a developing strength when connecting strata and symbolic indices are speaking to one another, responding by reflection. Strands of voice, strands of nature, these may be thought of as the rudiments of artistic expression from ancient cave paintings onwards; art, to quote Edmund Burke, is man’s nature. Strands weave and cross their myriad way in many readings of David Murphy’s artistic practice, where through painting and sculpture he has balanced the notion that nature can be considered in the abstract as well as truthfully replicated. This is not to say that itis not self-reflexive, critical work. His connecting orbs (Heavy Intruder series) which give the appearance of conjoined molecular cells, or microorganisms from the depths of a mountain tarn, meander and yaw in long trails, drawing ecological resonance with his enlarged leaf sculptures. As if to demonstrate that surface, represented by these sylvan giants, exists by way of complex underlying mechanisms, something we cannot always see, or necessarily understand. His paintings, a set of finely rendered textural abstractions, are less that and more poetic reminders of the industrial woollen looms which worked deep in the heart of nineteenth century England. The same bucolic countryside the artist has taken considered, not to say, gradual inspiration. Of corollary import, however, is that it was spread over these shires, and again in the nineteenth century, that the Luddites fearing their livelihoods were to be usurped by the industrial looms, rose up to sabotage the monstrous machines - and from which event Mary Shelley drew inspiration for her literary masterpiece of scientific invention, Frankenstein. Here the Promethean dilemma is forcefully foregrounded and the dangling question is put. How far do we wish to weave? And like with Ariadne’s thread, can we know where we are heading?
This is of course the ever complex and contradictory aspect of the human exploratory appetite; the excitement of discovery, the ability to see closer and understand better brings with it fascination, exhilaration and at the same time anxiety. It was a preoccupation of thinkers such as Edmund Burke who believed that our experience of the sublime had as much in common with our experience of violence, whether through natural disaster or social revolution. As David Bromwich interprets in his recent study of Burke, ‘the greatest poetry, is thus a heightening and bringing to awareness of a state of disjunction or derangement.’ In recent times this is true of particle physics and the subsequent invention and development of atomic weaponry, and it is integral to this that these scientific discoveries have gone hand in hand with our understanding of the sun and its life giving force, light. Of course the photons, and the phenomenon of photosynthesis critical to ecological growth, also acts in many instances as a slow denuding force. The solar energy which brings luminance to a richly crafted tapestry will over time take it away. Conservators of medieval and renaissance tapestries have found that when reversing faded works they reveal a perfectly preserved colouration and image, and thus the three-dimensionality of cross-hatched textiles is here born out, front and back, above and below. With this in mind, David’s most complex painting works, the X series, comprising of up to 80 thinned layers of paint, can be identified with both the three dimensional nature of textile weaving and the deep focus netherworld of microscopic imaging. Our world, we must consistently acknowledge, plays a balancing act between the natural and artificial, the supposedly real and the abstract. As if to subtly and delicately corroborate this, the rich and varied pigments he employs to give both form and content to his weaving paintings are made with casein - originally a natural milk based paint, its current commercial guise is a synthetic composite - and again, some of the works are monochrome renditions, affecting the spectral appearance of micro-imaging, like a microscopic shot of an alien, synthetic world. This hinting of scientific process, which historically developed as it did with the emergence of lens technology, reads elegantly alongside his convex glass sculptures, and therefore serves to underwrite further schema. Recently crafted in Egypt, these objects, by way of their ocular lens-like shape, suggest the inner working components of a large eye, perhaps acting as a lighter, clearer allusion to the dark classical eye of the bull or the minotaur.
Memory, connection and influence, precedent and history, provide us with interpretative skills to build knowledge, what physicists might term emergent and approximate; the idea that there might not be a definitive fundamental particle, and that the universe is possibly built out of an infinite set of relationships. This theoretical way of understanding the physical world can equally be applied to the analysis of art, literature or history - the connecting strands that bind and form. In this, the warp and weft, the intertwining elements in David’s work give a magical, lyrical credence to peoples creative ability, the ability to interpret by reflecting on relationships within given environments. The polymorphic play in his work drives reminders, sparks the imagination, of wanderings, connecting and growing itself into a brilliant whole. The dialogue between his conjoined molecular sculptures and his enlarged silver leaves is therefore not only a dialogue in the natural/biological sense, but can importantly be read as underscoring the natural primordial need for narrative. The necessity to make sense by connection, the evolutionary coping mechanism to reason the revelatory horrors of consciousness; perhaps the most brilliant example of this is Molly Bloom in James Joyce’s Ulysses, when she lyrically unfurls the skeins of her inner thoughts in order to physically release herself from a suffocatingly patriarchal Catholic Ireland. She therefore shows us a marvellous richness of buried, harboured feelings - reflecting on it she reveals the mirroring, comparative qualities of the human mind, an instinctive spirit, defiantly rejecting a spiritless situation in preference for her own natural sensitivity. Fiction is a style, a text, and historiography is textually woven. As is the line in art, making its way from one point to another it is carefully threaded, a fabrication, as with an espaliered vine, an ordering of reality.
Paddy Butler, 2015