Ciarán Murphy: Hundreds of Nature

Installation Views
Press release

GRIMM is pleased to announce Hundreds of Nature, a solo exhibition of paintings by Ciarán Murphy at our New York space. This is the artist’s sixth solo presentation with the gallery and his second solo exhibition in New York.

The multiple small works that make up Ciarán Murphy’s new exhibition evoke the documentation of a journey of some kind, something akin to the discovery of a long-lost roll of film.
The images seem to echo how frozen time can resurface, revealing fragments of an encounter with a strange place, complete with its inconsistencies, gaps and enigmas.

It is not surprising that the artist sites a fascination with the painter and adventurer Conrad Martens (1801–1878) who accompanied Charles Darwin (1809-1882) as a topographical artist on the HMS Beagle. Aside from the immediate aesthetic appeal of Marten’s drawings, Murphy is also taken with the more elemental features of this scenario; the possibilities of representing encounters with unfamiliar things and the subsequent naming, ordering and taxonomies involved in establishing a shared understanding of the world. This inevitably involves facing the inherent tensions and gaps between the subjective and the objective: the supposedly objective gaze of the scientist interpreting and re-presenting encounters and the subjective gaze that projects meaning onto that world.

Many of the forms that appear throughout this exhibition are recognizable - sea creatures, rocks etc. - but they are almost always fleeting. They are partial objects in the process of fusing back into their settings. Throughout there is a subtle play with boundaries and proximities, in some places birds are seen up close but violently cropped while in other places inanimate rocks seem as lively as the creatures that move around them. 

Murphy’s work can be understood as a mapping of interior mental ‘spaces’ as well as an ‘indexing ‘ or mapping of unworldly exterior spaces. This process plays with the enigma of how we come to make sense of visual data. Far from being a straightforward act, visual perception is a tangled web of processes that is determined as much by our memories and expectations as by what’s ‘really’ there in front of us.

These paintings are born out of a non-linear working methodology. Images are often started, then left to gestate, only to be revisited at a later time. This process allows for unanticipated changes of direction and thus for meaning to slide. The resulting imagery parallels subjective encounters like dreaming and can be understood as an effort to give consistency to fractured, disparate information. In this body of work the artist explores the fine line between fragmentation and order, testing the boundaries of what can be seen, represented and known.

The artist would like to acknowledge the generous support of the Arts Council of Ireland and the Fingal Arts Office Resort Revelations Residency in Portrane, North Dublin (IE).