Here I am with my parents Johnny and Róisín on my first day working for their stained glass studio Murphy-Devitt Studios, Monkstown, Co. Dublin. It is about 1960 and I had to stand on a box to help. I am still working for Murphy-Devitt Studios as research by myself and Anthony Devitt into finding and documenting their work is ongoing. See here: www.murphydevittstudios.com and here. The archive has been donated to the National Irish Visual Arts Library, Dublin which can be seen here www.nival.ie.
This is the image I am using as the symbol of all my artwork. It dates to before I began the BA in Calligraphy & Bookbinding at Roehampton Institute, University of Surrey, 1994-1997, and shows clearly that I had taken the written word and made it abstract. As you will see within my art story I had moved from writing other people’s texts legibly to composing my own for which legibility was not at all necessary. The layered effect here also echoes stained glass. This piece is approx A3.
This cartoon, by Róisín, shows my assistance. Was she or I working to the other’s instruction? This cartoon is for the Church of Our Lady Crowned, Mayfield, Cork and the windows are dated 1962, this drawing, therefore, would be a year earlier as the church is filled with so many of their most beautiful windows.
The Esso sign with its hilarious backwards 3 as an E: it was the first word I learned to read and I would shout “3sso” and dissolve into giggles. So, from that first word I could read I was interested in the shapes of letters.
I went to the National College of Art & Design in 1973. In those days one did a Pre-Diploma year to try out the three schools: Painting, Sculpture, and Design. It was then necessary to graduate out of Pre-Diploma before hoping for a place in the chosen School for a three year Diploma programme. I opted for Sculpture and did a lot of carving, modelling etc, but in retrospect it is these works which connect my later work with a love of sewing and knitting. This image, from my 1977 Degree Show, is of hessian and string sewn and crocheted around pieces of glass. I loved the hessian, loved its woven lines like ones drawn with an unreliable pen - thick and thin in unexpected places. Hessian smells lovely too. Best, the works could be made without awkward or specialised equipment, their making uses “kitchen sink technology”.
Another hessian and string piece from 1977. This one includes sea-rubbed fragments of crockery from my favourite beach.
Having graduated I was got a job as an archaeological illustrator in the National Museum of Ireland. As a continuation of an art education it could not be bettered. “Draw what IS there, not what you THINK is there” was the best advice I was given. January of 1979 brought me to somewhere in Kerry to draw a newly discovered dug-out canoe. The conventions are that an object is drawn as one sees it, also as sections, and anything interesting may be drawn in detail such as the cut marks shown here.
I have collaborated on many stained glass windows with my dad Johnny Murphy. This one dates to about 1982 and is in the Dominican Church, Limerick.