Global Talent Art Prize 1st Winner
Memory and oblivion: Grains of the Meghan Murphy art archives
Hay Fervor, 2022, 21.0 x 29.7 cm, Oil & acrylic paint, original print on Somerset paper. Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy is an artist and writer from Chicago IL., currently based in London. Her work primarily explores the concept of narrative inheritance. She recently graduated from the Royal College of Art, obtaining her MA in Contemporary Art Practice. Meghan’s cross-disciplinary practice navigates family legacy, intergenerational trauma, and the use of stories as power enforcers, architects of truth, and disrupters of status quo.
The artistic practice of Meghan Murphy is represented by various artwork series that harmoniously fit into the general line of a search for the place in the historical line of development of our family, the heritage of environment, the people and the historical memory of mankind as a whole. The artist’s searches lead her to self-representation of memory objects through reflective distortions of modern soft fabric textures, the use of embroidery, manipulations with old archival family photographs, and silhouette sculptures. Various aspects of the fragments of memory, trying to squeeze into the visible reality, acquire materiality in the interweaving of their context in a total installation, in which every detail finds its place, revealing the picture conceived by the author and immersing the viewer in an entropy universe of traumatic memory and blurring exclamations of the past.
‘til Death Us Do Part, 2022, 21.0 x 29.7 cm, Oil & acrylic paint, original print on Somerset paper. Meghan Murphy
In contrast to Kobakov’s total installations, where everything is subordinated to a common thought, Meghan creates from a set of series of works spread over time, even if woven into a common theme, but different in their medium and approach. This engages the viewer in a carousel of memories pulled out either from dreams or from the haze of past times.
But both artists serve only to highlight our common preoccupation with memory and the seduction of intellectual games¹.
Building Sandcastles, 2022, 21.0 x 29.7 cm, Oil & acrylic paint, original print on Somerset paper. Meghan Murphy
The series of works with photographs are condensed with fragments of a family story that exists somewhere between the artist’s fantasies and reality. The impossibility of reliably asserting or refuting the reality of the perception of facts and the peculiarities of memory transmission creates a rich environment for manipulations, improvements, interpretations and gaps. The photograph becomes a reminder of the person, and an affirmation of his absence or, in the words of Susan Sontag, “the vanished past”: “Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt”².
Cerberus, 2022, 21.0 x 29.7 cm, Oil & acrylic paint, original print on Somerset paper. Meghan Murphy
The artist’s attempts to realize her place in the stream of reality, to grasp the pillar of heritage, to tie the knot of her own existence on the canvas of tangibility, result in a complicated visual reflection on the inevitability of oblivion, colored by modern artistic practices.
There is an interplay with the materiality of the created objects, distorting and blurring photographs fill in the missing fragments of the collective memory with fictitious or maybe remembered and recreated, re-lived stories.
Where the storyteller adds expressiveness to his narration, an artist expresses his own reflections and fantasies under the refueling of an abstract and temporary display of momentary inspiration based on the ruins of legacy and fairy tales.
What is a fairytale, but a history of reality not reworked by society, time and many authors?
«I considered memory as ruins and architecture as bodily memory…just as it’s hypothesized that the body can physically store memory on a cellular level, I feel that the tissues of these ruins also hold memory…or unlock ancestral memory stored in my own cell», Meghan says.
Dining on Leftover Legacy, 2022, Installation. Meghan Murphy
Meghan, as a discoverer who doubted the authenticity of the found artifacts, begins to process them, becoming a co-author and witness to the events. Layering her strokes on the imprint of the real past, the artist intrudes into the alleged realness, irretrievably gone and inaccessible to us, but malleable and plastic for distortions and retransmissions.
Dinnerware with sculptures Soft-Sculpture Series, 2022, archival family textiles, embroidery. Meghan Murphy
Like Christian Boltanski, the artist’s practice is a way of working through trauma. Selecting the theme of inheritance and memory, over and over again Megan turns not so much to the past, but to an attempt to realize the pull of traumatic inevitability of lost or missing memories. Referring to the traditions of American society during the crises of the 20th century, to the decline of the great American dream, or choosing materials belonging to previous generations of her family as a medium, trying to maintain a serious and methodical approach to the subject under discussion and the importance of the trauma being analyzed, the artist tries to reveal the absurdity of the signified traditions, as well as to give significance to the material used, old and outdated, endowing it with a new history and freedom of interpretation.
Full Dinnerware Soft-Sculpture Series, 2022, archival family textiles, embroidery. Meghan Murphy
Even her actual sculptures, such as “She’s thrown the shoe”, gravitate towards deliberate significance, showing the viewer the stages in the killing off of their layers, discarded as unnecessary and wrapped up in timelessness. Exposing the rough “artificial” layer of the original casts, lifting the veil of the mystery of the artwork’s creation, Meghan layers the dust of the past onto the modern work. A withered cocoon of a butterfly, which has fallen out of use; mummified, it serves as proof of the existence of a real living object, escaping from the shackles of oblivion and timelessness.
She’s Thrown a Shoe, Texture 2, 2022, Resin sculptures, approximately 1.5 ft x 1-4 in. Meghan Murphy
Install view Dining on Leftover Legacy, 2022, Installation components plaster, wire, scrim, silicone, leather, silver.
Giving new life to materials from a bygone era, the artist not only breathes life into long-gone and forgotten objects, but also gives herself the power of creator, of narrator of a story that she does not invent, instead reconstructing it from the archives of memory. This approach is very reminiscent of the work “Reconstructions of Gestures made by Christian Boltanski between 1948 and 1954”³, in which he fixes the reality of each event from childhood through fictitious photographs and supplementing their reality with fictitious dates. In the works of Murphy, there is also an attempt to capture the bygone, lost, forgotten, to replenish the lost puzzle with an equivalent one, convincing herself and the viewer of the reality of memories.
Stacked Plates Soft-Sculpture Series, 2022, archival family textiles, embroidery. Meghan Murphy
This is partly the result of unsuccessful attempts to find real evidence of their own existence. The artist is proving to herself that the same people existed before her, that she is part of common memory and history, that she is the heir of her family, her society, her people, that she is the rightful owner of her land and her life.
The Plates Soft-Sculpture Series, 2022, archival family textiles, embroidery. Meghan Murphy
When Meghan documents and creates evidence of people and events long lost to oblivion, ironically about their way of life and strange traditions, she once again points out to the viewer the impossibility of preserving a reliable memory of herself. And is it necessary? The grains of memory serve as fertile ground for artistic fantasies.
1 Svetlana Boym, Artforum: Reviews, summer 1997 https://www.artforum.com/print/reviews/199706/ilya-kabakov-32801
2 Susan Sontag, In Plato’s Cave, from the book: On Photography, New York: Delta Books, 1977, pp. 3-24
3 Christian Boltanski, Reconstitutions des gestes effectuées par Christian Boltanski entre 1948- 1954 (Reconstruction of gestures made by Christian Boltanski between 1948-1954), 1969