Landscape artist CORA MURPHY tells us about her new book which celebrates finding a sense of home …
What was the starting point for Home?
Home brings together some of my best loved paintings from the past decade. I moved back to Ireland in 2007 – initially for one year following 15 years overseas. I never expected to settle or feel “at home” and yet the landscape anchored me – or at least tethered me.
The book brings together 21 paintings, which were made mostly on extended residencies – and there are short essays in response to the key inspirations in my work during the last decade namely, The Kerry Bogs, The Mayo Lakes, The Sea and The Sky.
What inspires you most about landscape painting?
I came to landscape painting quite by accident. Prior to moving back to Ireland, I had been making more conceptual work in London. Upon returning, I learned how to drive and it was the first time in my life that I really, truly was looking where I was going.
Gradually, these landscapes started seeping into my work. I hated them at first, resenting their green and blue obviousness. Looking for a completely different stimulus, I went to paint in the Baja desert in Mexico. I camped in a tent and made pieces using only the primary colours and found objects – I soon realised that these works were landscape too – I just needed to think bigger about the genre.
For me landscape painting as a genre has no beginning or no end. I love that the bogs are a living, breathing thing – constantly renewing and reinvigorating themselves. Likewise with the lakes – although seemingly static they are full of life and constantly evolving. In my paintings I am trying to capture what it feels like to be in nature and honestly when in nature – inspiration is endless.
Poetry is obviously an inspiration too – what are some of your favourite anthologies?
The work of Michael Kirby has been a great influence on me and my work. A native of Ballinskelligs in Kerry where I often paint (at the Cill Rialaig artists’ residency) he wrote his last book Skellig Sunset in his 98th year and spoke of “humbly attempting to describe nature”. It has been said that he illustrates how everything that lives is connected – and this is abundantly true in the landscape.
I also take lots of inspiration from the work of Seamus Heaney – I refer to his collections often and am inspired by his approach to his craft.
Mary Oliver is also a huge source of inspiration. Her pure, yet simple, devotion to nature is summed up succinctly in her poem Messenger which begins “My work is loving the world”. It is a sort of a mantra I refer to often, I hope it will underpin my own work.
Where and how do you work?
Most of the paintings began life on residency – most often outdoors with me working on my hands and knees! I tend to under-paint outdoors and then layer up with oils back at the studio.
Who have been your muses for your painting?
Over the years I have been blessed with great mentors including Bridget Flannery, Hughie O’Donoghue and Tom Climent – all great painters and good eggs – who through utter kindness and absolute soundness have helped me to develop my painting practice.
It is a great joy for me to host workshops now too – painting itself is super but solitary so being in a room full of enthusiastic painters is a brilliant balm. There is great camaraderie and lots of fun – I love it!
Have you got a favourite painting and if so, what is it and why?
If I had to choose a favourite it would be “A Bird Set Free”. I often say my work is best described as holding on and letting go. Letting go of all the doubt, fear and notions and holding on for the good stuff to come through. This painting was years in the making. I turned it to the wall for a while and then one evening it kind of painted itself!
Need to Know: Home: 10 Years of Painting in Ireland by Cora Murphy is €20. €5 from each book sold will be donated to The Simon Community to help those who are homeless. www.coramurphy.com.
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