Barrie Humphries, the wonderful Australian satirist and writer, was writing lately on art in his native Oz. He describes the painter Margaret Olley examining various canvases by contemporaries and muttering, ‘Nobody home, darling.’
Child of empire, fish, fowl, shape – changer, shaman, myriad – minded man, Anthony Murphy’s paintings brim with life. They leave the viewer in no doubt that they’re inhabited by someone very real and vibrant. The best of artists are men, or women, of universal mind. We have of course great public exemplars like the late Seamus Heaney (no mean appreciator of the visual arts), and my own author John Moriarty, a writer-poet and mystic, whose sayings Anthony has blazoned across derelict walls in Dublin and Bristol, like an impassioned Banksy.
‘Walk naked to Tara and inherit your royalty’.
I get a sense that AM will die in harness; he’s our Cezanne out there in the quarry, painting his heart out until a fever brought on by the rain does for him. He’s got a few years in him but at some stage Nature will call time on his restless, prodigious talent. And then his studio – eyrie at Les Jasses looking south to the snow-capped Pyrenees will cease to speak its mysterious metalanguage – erotic, Theosophical, intimate.
As someone who flew microlites in his youth, Anthony was a member of the dangerous sports club. He’s still a risk taker, riding to hounds and throwing himself off cliffs, an Icarus, his canvases soaring and dazzling in their passage towards the light. They have an adventurism at play that lifts the spirit.
I met him in Dublin years back when my author, the poet Richard Murphy, ‘Uncle Rick’ was playing William Butler to Anthony’s Jack. We banded together, rare in middle age; he borrowing images from my words, rendering whole the fragmented, as artists do and publishers aspire towards, evoking particularity along the shores of the unknown (as Isaac Newton cast his pebble into the deep). Call them out in a line : John Moriarty, Fintan MacBochra, Rudolf Steiner – seers and sages in Yeats’ holy fire, tempered by more earthly visions from that rag-andbone-shop of the heart. I placed one of Anthony’s paintings on the cover of his uncle’s new book earlier this May, Poems 1952 – 2012 : it depicts a reader on the road to a bright city, sli na firinne, a homecoming.