AFA: Congratulations on recently winning the China Unlimited Creative Contest in regards to the EU-China High Level People-to -People Dialogue in Brussels, Belgium. You received the award from the Chinese Vice Premier of Education & Culture with the European Commissioner of Education in attendance. How does it feel to win an international award like that representing a nation such as Ireland in such a spontaneous moment?
Anne Murray: It was a humbling experience, standing in front of a roomful of people that have a significant influence on world culture and education, I was nervous and very happy at the same time. There were thirty of us who were invited to the ceremony and we knew that only fifteen of us would win the prize out of 510 people that had competed. Before the ceremony, several of us had discussed this fact and were happy to decide amongst ourselves that it was a privilege and honor just to be selected for the exhibition and it was alright with us, if we did not win. Ironically, those of us that were standing around saying that we were ok if we didn’t win, ended up standing on the stage together, having won this great honor, a handshake from the Chinese Vice Premier, and a ten day trip to China.
I was proud to represent Ireland, honoring my grandfather and my family history in this way as an artist.
AFA: Your artist website quotes Socrates: "I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world". How does this quote relate to your outlook on your art and life?
Anne Murray: For a long time now I have felt that I was not a part of any country, whenever people asked where I was from, I got the most pressing questions when I said I wasn’t really from anywhere. It disturbed people that I was so resistant to claim one place as my origin, but in fact, I have lived all over the world, having started this process of moving at three months old. The planet Earth is my home. This way of thinking is important to who I am, to what I have worked towards, to the core of my being. To be a global citizen is more important than identifying with one small place on the planet.
AFA: You have conducted prestigious artist residencies, which in turn have had a direct impact on the creational goals of your work. Could you further explain these experiences? How many residencies have you produced work for and where?
Anne Murray: I have been to residencies all over Spain, in Italy, France, Turkey, Hungary, Serbia, and will be heading to one in Iceland soon. That totals about ten residencies, I believe.
I started off in France in August of 2014. I wouldn’t recommend that residency, as it was not very professional and I decided to leave early, ending up visiting London at just the right time to meet Marina Abramovic at Serpentine Gallery on the last day she was performing there. Meeting her had a tremendous impact on my career. She was humble, kind, and showed a generosity of spirit that was more than I could have hoped for. I thanked her for the work that she has done and I asked her to sign my business card, a kind of signing off on what I was doing. I began to cry, wet droplets marking my cheeks. She said as she reached in her pocket, “Don’t cry,” and as she pulled out some tissues, “because I cry, too, I have to make sure there is one for me.” She gave me a hug and a tissue and that was all that I needed as I walked out into the rain that had been falling for hours. The droplets from the sky mixed with my sobs as I realized that my goals were actually achievable in a way that meant I could maintain a kind heart and a sense of humility.
By default, the fact that I had left the first residency that was not very good, ended up bringing me closer to my goals and to meeting an artist for which I hold the highest admiration. I went on to create Shadows in the Sky: the Dance of Predator and Prey, a video poetry piece, at halka art project residency in Istanbul, Turkey. It was a risky project, since it was about the Gezi Park protests of 2013, for which many Turkish citizens have paid a harsh price on so many levels. My project incorporated the voices of ten Turkish citizens who had lived through the experience of the protest and its aftermath. I partnered their words with images of birds of prey attacking other birds as dark shadows in the sky, which reminded me of the Turkish shadow puppet theater performances that I love so much. This video poem was very well received by visitors to the halka gallery and so I ended up submitting it for a film festival in Spain, Incubarte 7, and it was chosen to be shown in Valencia. It was great news to know that people who were not directly connected to the Gezi experience, found meaning in the work and thought it was important enough to share at this film festival.
I went on to spend two months at a residency on Monte Subasio, Arte Studio Ginestrelle, above Assisi, Italy in a lovely setting amongst fruit trees, evergreens, and poplars. I accomplished a lot of work there and found it to be extremely inspiring both as an artist and as an individual. I created the video poem, Translucido Opaco, which recently won an award at the Festival del Documentario Storico Archeologico Amatoriale. I was very impacted by the light in Umbria and this video piece was composed of images taken from the windows of the National Gallery of Umbria in Perugia. I also created the video poem, Senza Rimpianti, which has been selected to show at the Tenerife Espacio de las Artes on the Canary Islands for the International Festival of Creativity, Innovation, and Digital Culture in December of 2015. I was also selected by Arte Studio Ginestrelle and the Council of Assisi to participate in the International Contemporary Art Exhibition in Assisi Unesco, at Galleria Le Logge for two consecutive years, November 2014, and the upcoming show November 29th- December 6th, 2015.
I discovered so much about myself in Umbria, about what drives me, what makes me unique, and how to really develop a professional practice that will sustain the creation of art in both the most inspiring and the most challenging situations. I learned about the plants, about the history, and about how portraits can become the most meaningful way to convey a poem, even when the portrait is of a pumpkin flower.
This year’s entry for the show at Galleria Le Logge will depict a film about the poetic image of the, Vite Maritata, an ancient technique referred to by Pliny the Elder as the planting of a grapevine and a maple tree together to support one another, which I see as two friends, lovers, or family members might grow echoing one another’s form in nature.
In Spain, I was an artist-in-residence in many parts of Catalonia, working on a project about the independence movement and also, in Cadiz, Spain at Linea de Costa, where I produced the video, Safe, which was selected for an exhibition at Studio C, in Los Angeles. Safe is about the vulnerability that we are exposed to in our digital culture. In Catalonia, I produced a series of six videos about the independence movement, and video stills from this project won me an Honorable Mention certificate in the Chelsea International Fine Art Competition, 2015. My video, Pa amb Tomaquet, which I created at Jiwar Barcelona artist residency, was recently selected for the exhibition, I Breathe with You, upcoming in the Spring of 2016 at the Augusta Savage Gallery at the University of Massachusetts.
In Hungary, at the Hungarian Multicultural Center residency, I worked on a video piece, entitled, Borders, which inspired me to push myself further using my singing voice to express my ideas about identity and borders relating it to the long history of conflict and shifting borders in Hungary.
At Belgrade Artist in Residence, I met many other artists and created the video, Hopscotch, a documentary (docuart) piece about the shifting roles and experiences of artists who grew up with border restrictions and limited travel because of the war in the Balkans. Through this residency, I have developed and participated in two collaborative projects: On the Edge Collaboration and Run Through Collective, both involving Serbian artists.
While in Turkey, at the Babayan Culture House residency, I created the photo series, Inside Me There is a Garden, which was selected for the 3rdAnnual Juried International Exhibition of Contemporary Islamic Art by the juror Salma Tuqan, curator of Middle Eastern Art at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; this show just opened in Dallas, Texas on September 26th. Coincidentally, two other photos created in Istanbul as a part of that photo series were also just shown as part of the Iranian Arts Now exhibition at the NeekOn Festival at the De Young Museum in San Francisco on the same day and will soon be available to review on the Ziya Art Center site for a three month online exhibition.
These are just a few of the direct results that have occurred because of the residencies that I have attended. It has been a lot of hard work at each and every one and in finding and submitting materials to compete for these opportunities; I have a drive that is nonstop. It is exhausting, but when you see how much can happen in just one year, it helps to get you through the applications and all of the forms that have to be filled out to compete. It is well worth it to meet so many artists from the far reaches of the planet and to share your work as a global artist.
AFA: Your preferred medium is digital, whether it be with images or video-poetry. However your extensive educational background is in drawing, sculpture, printmaking, mixed media, and art history. What guided you towards the digital medium?
Anne Murray: The biggest reason for this change, was my move to California and then to Madrid and Shanghai after that. I had always wanted to focus on video poetry and had done a lot of photography, but the need to create work that could travel with me, pushed me to focus on video and photography almost exclusively. I am in love with light and poetry, photography and video are the best way to nurture that love.
AFA: In regards to your video poetry: Leviathan (English) and Faerraraland are mysterious compositions. What would you like the viewer to take from them?
Anne Murray: Leviathan was an idea that I came up with as a part of my series on the Catalan independence movement. I was at the artist residency, Centre d’Art i Natura, in Farrera, Spain at the time. I was looking up at the mountains, the Catalan Pyrenees and I thought that the mountain looked like an enormous whale with the clouds and more distant mountains undulating like waves around it. I imagined what it would be like to be on either side of the whale, to know that it was there blocking all understanding between two people swimming on either side and that understanding was as easy as getting on top of the whale and looking over to the other side. I see the conflict between Catalonia and the Spanish State in this piece, with the whale between them preventing any realistic understanding of the position of one to the other.
Faerraraland was an experimental piece, a kind of dream that was inspired by a month spent at Centre d’Art i Natura in Farrera, Spain. I was there in the dead of winter, when the trees created beautiful graphite lines on the sky and hillside in various tones of grey and taupe. I explored every detail of the landscape, and after some rain, I began to notice the moss that was growing along a wall and then small plants, like fairy houses, the shapes of the plants and moss formed miniature homes. It reminded me of Ireland- of a distant ancestral home, of Galway and Doolin. So much of Catalonia reminds me of Ireland, it is hard to explain, but I could imagine that there were many tiny faeries inhabiting the rocks in the wall, the crevices and that there was an entire ecosystem connected to them, a childhood memory of magic.
AFA: Örümcek, Still-Alive, Garden of Delight: These sets of series into your digital 2-D works seem to contain relationships between space, atmospheric mist, and saturation. On top of which, the subjects of flora, spiders, and interiors within the qualities listed convey a deep aesthetic and mystery. How did you approach these series and what would you like to communicate about these sets of works?
Anne Murray: Yes, the spiders started in France, at the residency that I was not very pleased with, but that yielded some amazing pictures of spider webs, the series, Dream of Ariadne, (http://www.annemurrayartist.com/dream-of-ariadne.html). I saw them one morning, decorated with dew, like tiny pearls strung along them. I didn’t do anything with this series, but it had an effect on me and on the symbolism in my work. When I arrived at the residency at Babayan Culture House in Ibrahimpasa, Turkey, I took a walk around, and then explored the studio, which was part of an ancient cave house. As I was leaving, I looked up at the small horizontal window above the doorway and saw the spider, örümcek, (http://www.annemurrayartist.com/oumlruumlmcek.html), in Turkish. She looked like a drawing, her dark silhouette was huge and ominous, with a cotton candy membrane of webbing around her and enveloping what must have been her mate. At first, I thought she was dead, and I admired and photographed the lines created by the shadows within her web. Then, as if on cue, she moved to the corner of the window, which surprised me as she was changed from black to a pale brownish tone, the light penetrating her silhouette and causing her to appear more fragile and delicate as opposed to the original dark form of her silhouette in black.
Still-Alive, (http://www.annemurrayartist.com/still-alive.html), was a series that formed without thinking about it. I would see the light on an object from a particular angle, which made it appear as a painting of the Northern light that we see so often in museums from places like the Netherlands or Flanders. I just liked them. I liked the way that the light was almost coming from a different source, like the luminosity was diffused within the object and then released in a slow and steady pulse. I believe these are some of my finest works, but I share them less frequently and almost never submit them for competition. They are taken from all over the world, various churches and secular spaces, museums, etc. For me, they convey a sense of drama and of intensity in the ordinary, a sense of mysticism, of introspection, a personal history within each object as if the person who held them or touched each object, left a trace of themself upon it.
Garden of Delight, (http://www.annemurrayartist.com/garden-of-delight.html), was created while I was an artist-in-residence at Linea de Costa in Cadiz, Spain. There were two beautiful gardens across the street from the studio and a causeway nearby that went out to an ancient fortress. Cadiz is known to be of Phoenician origin and has many lovely sunny days throughout the year; it is also known as a popular vacation destination. I went there for two months, in December 2014 and January 2015, when the weather was rainy and unpredictable and there weren’t many tourists. A fog formed for a few days at a time and I was able to create this series in a rare landscape created by the air and the diffused light of the fog. I was recreating the scenario I had seen in old black and white movies, vampire tales and Hitchcock style mysteries. I was reminded of days living in Southern New England, in Rhode Island, where the fog surrounds the lighthouses at times and beckons one to the cliffs like sirens to seamen. I found it captivating, almost timeless, or as time frozen in a quiet state of beauty, to be appreciated through careful and long walks through the mirage of light and mist.