There is much about Anthony Murphy’s work for a modern art critic to despise. His paintings are full of life and colour and energy. They are not impenetrable allegories about 18th century slavery or the opression of the Ngo people. They are unrelated to the unspeakable calamities of the Turner Prize, or the car-crash that is the Tate Modern. Simply, they are what they are: the work of a painter who passionately knows his art, who has carefully mastered the technical skills of drawing, of composition, of colour, and who understands how to create balance and poise in a single canvas. More infuriating still for modernists, who so often depend on undiciplined self expression for their work, is the range of skills that enable him to paint portraits, landscapes, still life and abstracts. These would be of astounding merit if he confined himself to one genre: but as this latest exhibition of his work once again revealsm he achieves mastery of them all. One is in no doubt here about the matching of intent and of outcome. There are no accidents in this process, merely artistic vision, creative purpose, technically accomplished excution and triumphant result.
Artists see things in their minds that the rest of us cannot perceive. Their horizons are not ours. Their imaginations envisage and their hands do things that are quite beyond our quotidian ken. That is why society has always put them in a place apart, one that is marked by respect, attention and reverence, They are the paid-windows through which we are enabled to see a world that would otherwise be invisible. That is why the word gallery is so important to our civilisation. It originally meant church porch and is a corruption of the name Galilee. That is a measure of how art was generally regarded once upon a time, and still is by some: for it gives vital nourishment to the soul. Happily, Anthony Murphy remains utterly true to these ancient values, as this quite wonderful selection of paintings confirms.