John Philip Murray


“Looking at Tradition” (oil on linen 92x81cm) by John Philip Murray.
John Philip Murray was born in Dublin in 1952. He attended the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, from 1970 -1976. Since 1986 he has lived and worked in Lissardagh, Co. Cork.
This painting is from his 1995-1998 series. After a short trip to Tunisia, the mosaics, and remains of the buildings by previous civilisations, entered, unasked, into his work.
“They have meant a dramatic turnabout, from growing, natural, sources, to man-made ones. The low-key colour values, and gently vibrating colour contrasts, have both caused questions central to my previous use of colour. I started painting with oil paints again. The skeleton briefly entered, in colour, as a device to provide distance from humanity, while I put it under investigation. I explored themes of self-importance, or self-aggrandisement, in relation to achievement, tradition and religion. I used a mixture of high and low-contrast colour, realistic and juxtaposed images. As of February 1999, I still had not reached a conclusion in these works. (I brought them to a final stage in late 1998)
Not having drawn from a live model since my college days (finishing in 1976), I started attending a life-drawing session every week. Drawing the naked human form requires a different sensibility than for almost any other type of art, simply because we are human. Our expectations, therefore, are much heightened. When drawing trees from life, faithful and rigorous though my working drawings always strove to be, making a branch look too long did not carry the same dread as say, making a neck, or a nose, too long. I remain committed to drawing as underlying art. It has two main functions: As an end in itself, and as a plan for another work, perhaps in paint or sculpture, or even a larger drawing.
The more recent work (1997-1998) is purely visual. I continue to use mosaic colours, warm stone arches, and other images from Tunis, Carthage and more recently the unlikely location of Ibiza. There is only a passing reference to achievement or sanguinity. The scepticism and cynicism to some extent apparent in the work of 1995-97, has disappeared. Even though there are no people or symbols of people in these new works, they are nonetheless, all about people.” – John Philip Murray