Ciaran Murphy at Kavi Gupta Gallery

June 25, 2008 · Print This Article

Ciaran Murphy
The first exhibition of paintings by Ciaran Murphy at Kavi Gupta gallery features twelve paintings on canvas, all small or medium in size. They’re painted in a style that’s become all the rage of late– that low key, often monochromatic rendering of disparate objects and interiors, you know the one. The one Luc Tuymans made famous; the one that brought back small painting from the bombastic Eighties. We’ve all learned to appreciate a little meditative, personally scaled rumination on delicate palettes and sensitive brushwork. I know I have.

Ciaran’s paintings do just what this brand of painting aims to do. Well, some of them. The idea is really lovely; what at first seems simply under-described, gives way to a transcendent moment of reverie. That by flinging off all sorts of extra baggage, the paintings may, if done well, describe ever so much more than the ones that contain excessive information. In the case of this exhibition, the effect is achieved so well in a few of the works. “Frozen Tree” is a superb painting. Barely breathing through the flat gray field of color is a vibrant, odd fleshy tone of under painting. The fallen tree and its exposed root clump are rendered just enough, and not too much. The root clump, like an explosion on the otherwise quiet composition, makes the work a succinct beauty. “Storm Damage” and “Circular Cloud Formation” achieve the same thing- calligraphic gestures doled out in minimum, and with confidence. Like a good haiku, if I dare say.
Ciaran Murphy

What troubles me though is where the work devolves into forced naiveté, as in “Late Evening”, a small square painting with a clumpy brown hill dominating the lower two –thirds of the work, leaving room for a flat turquoise sky fitted with a tiny sliver of moon. Here it seems like a failed study. He describes only what is put down in paint. (There’s a hill, and there’s a moon.) It’s the difference between thinking about doing (those striated ridges on the hill feel labored, contrived) and simply doing, as in “Seven Sticks”, where a lovely, subtle confidence shows in the decisive mark-making. I’m also not a huge fan of the places in the show that seem overwrought, as in “Hunting”. Let the paint do the work, my friend.

Overall, it’s a good show. I love seeing the paintings all together, even if they represent a body of work in progress. I liked seeing Murphy’s undecided relationship with description on parade and I can’t wait to see more work by him- I have a keen sense that a more signature vision will emerge. And I think it’s going to be really good then.

37 Responses to “Ciaran Murphy at Kavi Gupta Gallery”

  1. Have I mentioned how freaking happy I am that you contribute to BAS yet? Jeepers it’s great.

  2. Well, by golly, Richard, I feel welcome. Thank you.

  3. Wholey gee whiz, I’m pleased as punch too. Really, Lisa!

  4. Actually, I rather hate the over-turpy, washed-out, tiny picture fad, as well as having painting be discussed terms of some straw-man conception of 4 years of Neo-Exp in the 80s (what about the fact that for almost 10 years before that time point and for 12 after it academic conceptualism has reigned — now there’s a figure to knock down which isn’t made of straw). — But I think your review discusses this art well Lisa, especially the clear description of combination of “when-it-works” and “when-it-doesn’t” (something seldom seen in the glossies) and I look forward to seeing more of your opinions in print.

  5. Michael Workman Says:

    I agree, Lisa has a valuable intuitive contribution yet to make. She’s so ridiculously smart and intelligent (not the same things), it’s highly inadvisable to bet against her finding her voice at some point. And, for some reason, thinking on this kind of work brings to mind a fave Oscar Wilde quote of mine: “A cynic knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.” Hrrm. It recalls Kavi himself, I dare say. Go, secondary market!

    I wish this city had a single legit gallerist that wasn’t a follower with his or her face plunged into the ass of the sheep ahead of them.

    M

  6. front page of the arts section on the Trib:

    What’s up with this monkey?
    Is that really mascara? What the…..
    You know you want to know. page 22

  7. Unfortunately, Michael, I kind of think that posts like the one you just made are the kind that deter people from thinking that Bad at Sports is becoming a respectable outlet for arts coverage.

    Critical attention is very welcome, tear that show apart if you like. The show. Or my review. If you don’t mind.

  8. HUH? I think what Michael Workman had to say about the gallery scene here is dead on.

    Thank you for having the courage to be so straight-forward and honest Michael. If becoming respectable means falling in line and accepting (with a variety of circumscribed politeness fortunately found only as a main ingredient in the speciousness that defines so much of the art scene here) the towering mediocrity of the local gallery scene, then who in their right mind would want it? Assuming that is, the capability of thinking for ones self-

    “I wish this city had a single legit gallerist that wasn’t a follower with his or her face plunged into the ass of the sheep ahead of them.”

    Perfect and, perfectly true.

    Politeness, conformity, conflated seems to be what defines respectibility here -and, elsewhere. Strange, I’ve always thought of those things as essential elements when conditions of corruption of conciousness/decadence come into play, when meaning collapses- when art becomes merely reflexive…..thanks Michael for, in Marcuse’s language, shattering that mirror. And showing in a way the real meaning of respectibility in art -as Henik Ibsen put it, as The Enemy Of The People.

  9. Since when is BAS respectable, good golly I sure hope they aren’t.

  10. They are highly interesting, but only marginally respectable!
    Hey Balzie — I was hoping you would comment on our Basel report. I hope you listened to it (and didn’t fall asleep)!

  11. Nothing respectable about us, sheesh, we spend most of our intros talking about how Duncan won’t wear pants.

  12. Michael Workman Says:

    I actually liked your review, Lisa. But respectability isn’t defined by having not a thing to say. And if falling in line is the standard of dialogue for respectability, I’ll take whoever backs honesty anyday over crass calculation. Please. Let’s have a minimum standard of spine.

    This little corner of the art world is now officially dead, a walking zombie. The real and more interesting question before it is how to find its place in a world that has left it far behind.

  13. Michael Workman Says:

    And just for the record, I for one am pleased as punch for long ago openly admitting to my own moral bankruptcy. There’s something deeply satisfying in the notion that others so thoughtlessly have cast me as disreputable, earnestly scandalizing and even perhaps a ‘lil wicked. I’ve never once felt the inclination to hide, warts and all, exactly who I am from others, not even for a second.

  14. “Actually, I rather hate the over-turpy, washed-out, tiny picture fad, as well as having painting be discussed terms of some straw-man conception of 4 years of Neo-Exp in the 80s (what about the fact that for almost 10 years before that time point and for 12 after it academic conceptualism has reigned ”

    precisely -and, this is NOT what is going on in painting elsewhere…the Luc Tuymans, one shot/turped out photo derived, zero drawing skill school was ‘the rage’ -at art schools that is- perhaps 5-6 years ago, but certainly not now…as for Ms Boyle’s comments about letting the paint do the work, I would suggest there is a great deal of difference between masterful manipulation of the plastic surface, being able to get out of the way of “paints hellbent magic’, letting the work breath, in the company of ‘good hands’ -and a simple hands off pseudo minimalist technique -because the painter cant do it -ie ‘paint’- that any involvement will show the artists lack of skill.

    I find all of this disturbing. The initial discussion, that the ‘ideal’ gallery would eschew almost all craft (I assume the meaning is technique) -for deep concept….(what a tired, hackneyed, academic, institutional take on esthetics-) that objects that are sold for money are somehow less meaningfull than one-line gimmickry executed at student level skill-

    and now, a review of this anti painting painting at Kavi Guptas…..just what we really needed, another provinvial reiteration, rehashed for some god forsaken reason, yet again!

    Only in Chicago, would this tired, washed out conceit be raised once again without someone calling it out for the on crack malarky that it is.

    Actually, much of this discussion has served to illustrate the point Michael Workman was making: go to Mathew Marks, to LA Louver, to Ace and experience a real art gallery complete with real art dealers, go take a meeting with Kimberly Davis at Louver Ms Boyle -and experience the company of a real art dealer -they do exist, to name just a few -minus the art school blather that has so infected and made silly tthe gallery scene here. From Ten In One through Shane Mathews, the step over the wino store-front (and wow the Winnetka crowd- its ‘raw’, its ‘dangerous’, its incompetent!) concept of what is edgy, complete with poorly rendered art school level work is laughed at by the rest of the art world as, in Workmans words once again,

    “This little corner of the art world is now officially dead, a walking zombie. The real and more interesting question before it is how to find its place in a world that has left it far behind.”

  15. * correction

    From Ten In One through Shane Campbell –are the galleries I was referencing -as Architrouve is next door to Campbell, I was able to see several shows there -all, poorly hung, trite and trendy…all no doubt, ‘the rage’

    It was interesting watching some really good artists like Tony Fitzpatrick -Marianna Levant, -I did a show there with Sandro Miller…serious professional shows that blew away the amateur hour/ art student work next door…and all ignored by the ‘art crowd’ no doubt due to a lacuna of ‘hip factor’

    ….while next door, art as trend, a variety of poorly executed hipster genre, with amateur as what is considered emerging and ‘edgy’ here in Chicago -where the idea of serious world class galleries/dealers, world class art just sails right over the art worlds head here-

    I mean, why have a real gallery, work hard, long hours to build a unique, hard won vision, when you can kick back in an ‘Uncomfortable Space’, be too cool for words and simply show everything that is ‘emerging’…. ‘the rage’….

  16. I add this caveat: Perhaps the main reason why we dont have a serious gallery scene here, is due to our chicken shit collector base -at the high end. In Los Angeles, galleries like LA Louver sell the art of and nurture serious careers for local artists -as happens in New York. Because, serious collectors there support their local artists! And are willing to buy work beyong the prices of emerging art.

    Here, the big collectors have built themselves this architectual disaster of an inner city country club that they fill with New York and LA/’International’ artists- showing only sporadic and scattered support for art made here- in a way that monolithic turd of a building, is the perfect metaphor for the lack of vision/originality coming from the quarters that oversaw its coming into being, and how they perceive themselves as collectors in relationship to us artists in our shared community -by proximity only I might add!

    In other words, little originates from here ,no doubt npt only due to massive indifference and complacency -but due to a failure of nerve and vision as well-

    origin- originate…originality! these people let NYC and LA dictate to them what has currency in the art world….without the huevos to open their eyes and look around, and create their own canon. A Chicago canon…which is probably one reason why our scene ends up second rate and, unoriginal.

    Proof of this is that the art they do support from here is more often than not, provincial variations on what is happening elsewhere.

  17. Hear hear!

  18. and an amen.

    I think this little documentary sums up what Wesley is pointing to very nicely.

    http://www.boingboing.net/2008/04/23/experiment-96-of-pas.html

    I’m willing to bet my next six pack that if it was John Mellei, Ed Moses or Terry Winters in this video, the ratio would have been very different.

  19. Huh? -maybe you’d better lay off the six pack John……I like Luc personally quite alot -though I think ( actually as a painter I know-)he is no great shakes-and that what he really affords the conceptual/anti painting crowd, is a form of painting to discuss while keeping up their aversion to it -to painting. And at the same time funny enough, describing inadvertently, their towering ignorance of it -of painting!

    Lets face it, this is a species of painting that cannot hold its own without the talk- visually. It simply doesnt have much going for it -though its proponents speak of its adeptness at evoking some form of nebulous ‘mood’ through its unfocused half-realized, greyed out, monochrome monotony. His low tech/low skill approach to making work is pretty slack and thin (there sure aint much painting happening in these paintings!) -it will be interesting to see how this works reputation holds up over time…..perhaps Luc will be seen as a bland, turped out modern day Milton Avery or something like that-

    Having said this, I don’t feel this thread has really been focused upon the content of the video you mention and link -but rather on Chicago, art dealers and collectors here. Why these fools will all run down to pick up a Josh Smith piece of junk for around 20k (Saatchi has one!) but seem incapable of thinking for themselves and supporting some of the very good artists here.

    Though, I am sure you are correct in guessing that a good work by my dear friend the great Ed Moses -would stop people in their tracks -Winters, perhaps- but less so and Millei even less so…….

  20. “I like Luc personally quite alot -though I think ( actually as a painter I know-)he is no great shakes as a painter”

    huh?

    no offense, but what about the turped out poor drawing skill painting you’ve railing against for so long?

    And you’re throwing John Mellei and Terry Winters under the bus in comparison?

    Correct me if I’m wrong.

  21. I know we’re communicating within posts, but Josh Smith…again, I think you and I are on the same page.

  22. forgive my moses under the bus comment.

  23. I’m just curious however. In your opinion, how many art undergrads, post grad studentd at UIC or SAIC can actually draw? Is it even a prerequisite?

  24. how I miss Milton Avery. Is it possible any more? Wesley?. Anyone?

  25. oh bruuuther, ……..so I see you chose not to take my suggestion and forego the six pack…well this thread was all played out anyway-

  26. nope… why not respond to my questions? I’m not necessarily challenging you, just curious. You obviously have much to to say in this regard.

    Don’t you think it relates to the larger picture?

  27. I believe I have noted it does relate -however, as my argument had several points to make, as this thread started with a local review and then digressed in a (to me) interesting way with Michael Workmans comments regarding the gallery scene here, I prefer focusing on the specifics of the discussion.

    Having done just that, and spoken my piece, I’m done discussing!

  28. point taken.

    However, you haven’t nearly gone far enough.

    Fucking shark…..

  29. Okay, I’m back from vacation.

    I am very clear now that “serious” was entirely the wrong word in describing the aspirations of BaS. “Interesting” or “Useful” might have been a better word. I think that BaS can be irreverent and silly and still be of value in talking about art.

    All the “golly, gee willickers” and “by goshes” notwithstanding, I assume from the amount of time a few people spend on here that one of the terribly self-effacing little goals is to be interesting. We are, at the very least, hoping to have discussions about art, and have people read them, no? Maybe even have more than the same handful of people get in there and comment.

    My objection was to having posted a review of a show and to see that the thread got hijacked into (yet another) landslide of personal grievance disguised as “bravery” and “spot on observation”. It tends to quickly truncate the train of thought about the show and people get instantly fatigued by toxic gossip. And then they stop reading. I know I’ve stopped reading a discussion board or two in this town once the slinging gets under way.

    Mark, on the other hand, said useful things. He pointed out what he hated about this kind of painting. Talked about some things I was forgetting, etc. That is the kind of conversation I would hope for. I was even reading what Wesley had to say…about the painting, until that too started to devolve into the same thing. I became scared that I was about to be referred to as having the brain of an ape, as I’ve seen happen before. So I stopped reading. Because I don’t want to face that I am a troglodyte. In fact, I shaved my legs twice this morning out of anxiety.

    It’s not an interesting digression to use a review of a painter to tenuously segue into pointless slander about the person who owns the gallery. It’s tedious.

    I was just hoping to keep this thing on the dance floor, that’s all.

  30. We all agree that the thread went down a track having little to do with the original ideas, yet many people said very intriguing things (including Michael, John and the Shark). They just need to be in a place where they fit. Most probably that should be done in a separate post/thread/ about the whole topic and probably at Sharkforum where we do this a lot. (Not pointless slander, but very pointed slander, —er — I mean attacks on those who deserve it.) I think BaS is better fit to other directions. Soooo, I hope to argue with y’all at SF or elsewhere later. (Maybe I or Shark will start a post/thread and John and Michael can chime in and we can batter this out.)

    And I look forward to more reviews by Lisa (again — on a somewhat technical, colleague-critic matter, I thought the “it is best when he does this — this direction doesn’t work” thing you did was great. Such constructive, yet standing on your own two feet, critcism is seldom nowadays. Keep it up!)

    Now I’m off to Brittany in France for vacation!

  31. Michael Workman Says:

    Personally, I love gossip. My self-effacing goal has always been to a kind of transcendent tedium, an austere state of consistent enervation and uninterestingness usually attainable only by the vegetative. And I’ve never used the phrase “train of thought” either, that I can recall. But then, I’m a huge douche who hated raising his hand in school.

  32. “Okay, I’m back from vacation” said the decapitated elephant seal, plopping back into the grey green sea, to the circling Shark…

  33. “My objection was to having posted a review of a show and to see that the thread got hijacked into (yet another) landslide of personal grievance disguised as “bravery” and “spot on observation”. It tends to quickly truncate the train of thought about the show and people get instantly fatigued by toxic gossip.”

    uuhhhhh…….
    “I wish this city had a single legit gallerist that wasn’t a follower with his or her face plunged into the ass of the sheep ahead of them.”

    so this is gossip? Funny I found Workman’s observation, especially in light of the ‘critics’ contextualizing of the show as part of a genre described and informed by certain artworld trends as utterly appropriate to the discussion.

    “I was even reading what Wesley had to say…about the painting, until that too started to devolve into the same thing.”

    ….and what precisely might that ‘thing’ be? gossip? there is, unfortunately to your argument Ms Boyle, not one sentence of gossip in my discussion. If you are making reference to my pleasure in practicing social psychiatry of a form/ in pointing out how the art world works here, perhaps if you had better understood it yourself, your gallery might have been more relevant/still in existence- suffice to say, as a dealer of my own work, I feel confident that over the last few months I have made more sales for more money than you did in the entireity of your tenure as an art dealer- so someone here must know what they are doing…..

    “It’s not an interesting digression to use a review of a painter to tenuously segue into pointless slander about the person who owns the gallery. It’s tedious.”

    ….but that was not the digression… -actually the real digression had much to do with your review -the context in which you chose to frame the work, all of which Kavi is a participant in.

    as for tedious -how about, “that low key, often monochromatic rendering of disparate objects and interiors, you know the one. The one Luc Tuymans made famous; the one that brought back small painting from the bombastic Eighties.”

    you might want to consider given that we are halfway through 2008, that you could be called to account for indulging in a form of overkill and redundancy that stretches the definition of the word tedium, beating on a rancid puddle of flesh, bones and maggots, that perhaps a decade or so ago used to be the remains of a long dead horse-

  34. Orange Palanquin Says:

    Big, angry Shark in a small pond.

  35. Orange Palanquin -nice!……in terms of me, The Shark, however, -off the mark. Far from being angry, I feel ambitious about the scene in Chicago, about the new cyber scene here -and hate to see it employed and squandered discussing Tumans inspired provincialisms- in otherwords, the same tired old shite thats been foisted upon us for years-

    But enough here – I am going to unpack this whole argument/Chicago’s possible response to an increasingly specious art world, over in the waters of sharkforum in the coming weeks…

  36. *correction- ‘Tuymans inspired provincialisms’

  37. Just be happy you have a scene, and/or, galleries to bitch about.

    Twin Cities Two Cents

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