Paintings by Christopher Murphy

September 18, 2015

"Imagination playfully cavorts with authenticity to fabricate the essence of memory. It is at this intersection, between the poles of fiction and truth, that my current paintings and drawings are situated.  Issues of contrast, specifically of finding harmony between dissonant elements, have been a constant theme in my work.  I see my paintings as opportunities to explore the conceptual contrasts of reality versus illusory and permanence versus ephemeral as applied to memory.

I choose old family photographs (largely culled from my own family’s albums, but supplemented with a selection of found photos from estate sales and thrift stores) to serve as the basis for my work, because of their unique qualities of semi-permanence, staged semblance, and ostensible candidness.  In these photos, skies fade to pale yellows, skin tones sink, and details blur and grow fainter with time.  Sometimes, dated technology necessitated blank stares or static poses, caused colors to skew, or impacted the framing of an image. By either exaggerating or minimizing these characteristics, along with re-contextualizing figures and objects or dramatically re-staging the action of a photo, the divisions are obscured between the reality that existed at the moment of the photograph, the memories of that moment, and the possibilities of reality that are presented in my work.  The oil paintings further complicate these divisions through their slow and laborious attempt to address a transitory moment that was initially captured with an equally instantaneous (in its execution) technology.  What becomes of the snapshot if it requires months to take it? Additionally, there is interplay of tonal contrasts in these works, as humor flits around anger; solemnity is nudged by frivolity; absurdity pokes at earnestness.  This is akin to the gauzy, inchoate, often chaotic nature of memory." - Christopher Murphy