Dublin City Gallery/ Hugh Lane Golden Bough suite.

November 4 – January 16, 2011.

Image courtesy of the artist.

While listening to Gavin Murphy’s twenty-five minute audio The Necessity of Ruins (2010) in the Golden Bough “suite” of the Hugh Lane Gallery, three visitors came and went. The duration of their stay was made up of that sweeping arc that the viewer takes when wandering into a museum to glance at the primary medium of painting. I do not know the empirical statistics of one’s general interaction with a piece of art, but the time given to a painting is said to be on average, five seconds. The adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ only holds true if the viewer is willing to take a longer vigil than that.

It could be said that the Golden Bough curatorial is out of step with the Hugh Lane Gallery audience. The projects that have been curated for the suite are generally not oil on canvas. Murphy also had to contend with a significant twentieth century painters’ painter upstairs—one Richard Tuttle. With Francis Bacon being the Jewel in the Hugh Lane’s crown, painting certainly rules the roost at Dublin City Gallery. If the viewers that I witnessed were willing to stay a while longer, however, they would realise that Murphy’s project, entitled Remember, and curated by Michael Dempsey, offered more than a sweeping glance could ever give.

Not a ‘white cube’, the architecture of the Golden Bough suite initially invites a looped appraisal of the work on show. Two large antique wooden benches take a foothold of the floor space. Murphy, with elegant subtlety, disguises both benches with two acrylic and hardwood screens. The long staccato titles of each screen, such as: The Novel as Journey through the Centuries and Continents, echo the zigzag of their structured display. Perception and duration are sensitively played with, in the placement of a potted household plant behind a hinged-to-the-wall tinted glass frame, which cuts varying details of the plant from one’s wandering viewpoint. On the same wall a series of laser-cut acrylic, letter and punctuation “signs,” jut-out perpendicularly to the wall, to make up a long winding sentence, just like the screens. Narrative takes shape as I bob my head up and down to decipher what the letters amount to—a sentence?, poetry?, more postmodern ambiguity? None of the above. The words are appropriated from the script of Federico Fellini’s film 8 1⁄2; a filmmaker who was criticised for a “stylistic tendency to emphasise images over ideas.” The designed font, commissioned by Murphy, reads as follows:


A Magpie’s Eye for Appropriation

GAVIN MURPHY_Remember_Dublin City Gallery/ Hugh Lane Golden Bough suite

November 4 – January 16_ 2011_



One more word about giving instruction as to what the world ought to be. Philosophy in any case always comes on the scene too late to give it ... When philosophy paints its gloomy picture then a form of life has grown old. It cannot be rejuvenated by the gloomy picture, but only understood. Only when the dusk starts to fall does the owl of Minerva spread its wings and fly.

George H. W. Hegel, Philosophy of Right (1820).[1]

We suffocate under words, images, and sounds, which have no reason to exist, they come from the void and go towards the void. A truly worthy artist should be asked for nothing but this act of sincerity: to educate himself to silence.

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