Throughout art history the reoccurring theme of ‘the embrace’ has permeated visual imagery. Gustav Klimt, Pablo Picasso and Roy Lichtenstein among others have created works based on this motif. Carol Murphy, in her 2009 exhibition Interspace, portrayed notions of connectivity in her sculptures, one of which conveys an embrace of two figures. This work, entitled ‘Embrace,’ does not feature the lust, romance and passion of other works developed around this theme, as it is contrarily pensive and quiet. ‘Embrace’ depicts a female bust with a male bust behind it. It looks as if the hand and arm of the man is reaching through the woman’s chest in order to hold her and pull her closer. The subdued grey hue used, and the mild expressions portrayed, allows this work to have a pared-back and simple beauty. ‘Embrace,’ which is representative of its exhibition Interspace emotionally and stylistically, conveys a physical and figurative complex relationship of lack and fulfillment. As explained in the exhibition statement, Murphy’s intentions were to “…explore the connectivity between forms: examining negative spaces, inner spaces and the spaces created by the removal of matter.”
Left to right: Carol Murphy, ‘Embrace’ 2009, ceramic, 46 x 29 x 26cm; Carol Murphy, ‘Enid (is equipped for all situations)’ 2011, ceramic on timber base, 40.5 x 13 x 10cm
Murphy’s colour palette may have been restricted and her figures minimalist in this exhibition, but she has another line of work that is playful, intricate and full of colour. In Murphy’s 2011 exhibition The importance of being Ernest… no Enid this side to her work was in full fruition. The Josephine Baker inspired ‘I Got Hungry,’ her ‘Ouch! I said pin-up girl!’ and her appropriation of the character Enid from the Ghost World comics, ‘Enid (is equipped for all situations),’ all have an adorably fun element to them. The thick-limbed figures have a child-like innocence despite their often quite adult characterisations.
Left to right: Carol Murphy, ‘Spot Wants To Play Too’ 2012, ceramic, timber, metal, 39.5 x 11 x 7.5cm; Carol Murphy, ‘Empty Woman’ 2008, ceramic, timber base, 41 x 13 x 12cm; Carol Murphy, ‘Ouch! I said pin-up girl!’ 2008, ceramic, metal, fibre, on timber base, 43 x 14 x 8cm
The most recent work by Murphy in the Gallery is ‘Spot Wants To Play Too.’ This anthropomorphic male figure is attached to a timber base and stands with his hands by his sides. This is the first obviously male figure Murphy has created in a number of years and is a companion piece to the 2011 exhibition. It is a quite detailed piece, with each individual toenail scratched out and painted. The pink spotted green shorts he is wearing displays a protruding package, playing into the adult-innocence paradox prominent in her work, as mentioned earlier. The head of the figure is obviously a mixture of human and canine with its downward ears and melancholy expression representative of the work’s title. Also in the Gallery at the moment is her paired-back and stylised piece ‘Empty Woman’ and when displayed with works such as ‘Spot Wants To Play Too,’ it is interesting to see Murphy’s dichotomous styles interacting.