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Bird Party with holes to another dimension – Deirdre Murphy’s Murmurations at Painted Bride


–>Edward’s review of Diedre Murphy’s Murmurations at Painted Bride compares the landscape paintings with a part of contemporary pop culture that may surprise you. —the Artblog editors————————->

Murmuration, a very evocative term for a flock of birds, also suggests the quiet voice of order that calls them into formation. Artist Deirdre Murphy‘s Murmurations, a series of paintings and graphic works on the subject, uses a cacophony of elements to describe this miraculous natural phenomenon— and manages to have a little fun in the process.

The strongest works on display are six panoramic, yet relatively small, acrylic paintings. Created on boards prepared with a porcelain-like surface, they have a cool, impenetrable tone, an exactitude of mark, and an abundance of detail.

Jet contrails share the sky with birds in The Grand Passage. This mountain vista is also dotted with confetti-like shapes that hover like kites in the air, yet clearly do not occupy the deeper space of the painting. These colorful excisions resemble the pixelations that occur when poor bandwidth interferes with a digital television picture. It’s an unexpected glimpse of the flat material used to create the illusion of depth.

The Grand Passage, Acrylic on panel, 11" x 36", 2013
The Grand Passage, Acrylic on panel, 11″ x 36″, 2013

Drifting Winds offers a hint at how such a system works. The painterly mix of pinks, purples, oranges and blues that make up the painting’s dusk sky also appear as bits of flat color scattered through the image. It’s as if the artist deliberately affixed her paint test strips to the surface. As in The Grand Passage, the strips are like holes in the image that reveal another reality immediately beneath the surface.

Drifting Winds, Acrylic on panel, 11" x 36", 2013
Drifting Winds, Acrylic on panel, 11″ x 36″, 2013

Meandering loops of color in Point of Departure map the undulating flight paths of the birds as well as the set of hues used to paint the image. Resembling a necklace of multicolored cylindrical beads, the strands are the the DNA of a day’s light and a diagram of the air currents that carry winged creatures aloft.

Point of Departure, Acrylic on panel, 2013
Point of Departure, Acrylic on panel, 11″ x 36″, 2013

The piece that most jarringly pits schematic rendering against naturalistic depiction is Long Distance Flyer. In the painting’s top half, birds fly amongst enormous wedges of pure color. These planar shapes imitate the flutter of wings, aligning with the forces of lift and drag that act on any flying body. Their rainbow hues might be a refraction of the tiny amount of light emanating from the painting’s night sky. Against the dark background, these shapes dominate, while the birds play a secondary role. It’s as if the avian creatures migrated from a landscape painting into a geometric abstraction.

Long Distance Flyer, 11" x 36", Acrylic on panel, 2013
Long Distance Flyer, 11″ x 36″, Acrylic on panel, 2013

A club DJ might build a groove by knitting pure sound and rhythm with blast-from-the-past samples of recorded music. Murphy has done the same with paint. Her works pit naked visual elements — color, line, and shape — with examples of completed picture-making straight out of a museum. Keeping it all together is a faint overlay of the patterns and repetitions that underlie all physical experience.

Murmurations is on view at the Painted Bride, 230 Vine Street, to October 20, 2013.