John Murphy Woolford
Reflections. Such an intriguing theme. Reflections of something, on something or both? Is what is seen or thought clear, incoherent or somewhere in between? How does what is reflected and the resulting conclusion change or affect us? These questions have been connected to my art practice for some time and I have sought to explore them through paintings, drawings, printmaking and collage.
I have been making images for over 30 years and most of my work is either still life or figure/portrait based. I like depicting commonplace objects you would find in anyone’s home. Flowers, bowls, fruit. And mirrors. I love the way this object can both expand what we can see and how it can extend our imagination to wander into other worlds. The implication of mirrors is quite magical.
I am also interested in using universal themes and subject matters common to us all. Memory and mortality have been two reoccurring themes over the last 5 or 6 years. Reminders of our own relationship with death have been depicted through art history, particularly in the 16th and 17th centuries by Dutch still life painters, who reminded audiences of the fragility of life and the moral obligations accompanying this.
I have tried to ask myself if the genre of still life painting, and particularly vanitas and memento mori paintings, can be re-invented for a modern audience. Can such powerful and specific objects like the skull be presented in a new and interesting way? In today’s culture we are more separated from considering our own mortality than ever before. The Covid19 crisis has painfully reminded us of this. No-one likes to contemplate the precariousness of existence. But should we just look away and ignore this important part of our life? Or can we, in considering seriously our relationship with the conclusions of life, let it help build a more positive and constructive journey to our personal endings?
It is said, (I’m sure somewhere), that we remember and dream in black and white. While I am not totally convinced this is true, I like the way this idea creates a separation from the here and now visible world. Our memory is a strange and flexible Character, mixing the actual with the imagined; keeping some information while dropping others, (with seemingly little attention to what is and isn’t important to retain) and then blending and re-presenting this back to us as solid, factual occurrence. Realising the potential vagueness of our internal histories can have a vertigo-like effect. But it is also what makes us human, creative, imaginative. What would a picture responding to this human experience look like? How can you depict what memory feels like?
These are the reflections I have when I make my paintings, collages and prints.
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