In The Shadow Of Sirius: Jennifer Murphy

Jennifer Murphy:

The Shadow Of Sirius

Opening: Thursday September 5th from 6 to 9pm
Exhibition: 5 September to 12 October, 2019


“What makes a desert beautiful,” said the little prince, “is that it hides a well, somewhere.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

We are thrilled to open the fall art season with an ambitious solo exhibition by the Canadian artist, Jennifer Murphy. This is her fourth show with the gallery and is particularly notable for the scale of the new works. Throughout her career Murphy has sought to evoke the plenitude, wonder and interconnected web of relationships that make up the natural world. She has become known for collaging together, with a gossamer thread and bottomless patience, images of a bountiful flora and fauna that seems to harken from a bygone era, each one built up of smaller images that coalesce into a larger whole, be it an egret worthy of (or based upon) James Audubon, or a towering flower that dwarfs the viewer. Murray Whyte, writing in the Toronto Star, noted that “Her pieces have a dynamic fragility that knits tightly together to her source material. Images culled from old nature magazines and textbooks have a naive, anachronistic idealism about a natural world quickly being despoiled at the same time as it was being preserved by the mechanics of a publishing industry playing no small part in its ruin. Murphy’s hybrids, maybe, are survivors — adapted beyond reason to a possible world where only their effigies can endure.”

“Although I have worked in collage since I was a child, I really began to explore large-scale, sculptural collage after the death of a dear friend and close collaborator ten years ago. The work was a way to cope with the grief but also an outlet to hope. This series comes at another time of loss, both personal and I believe collective. We now live in a time of ecological mourning and are in desperate need for paths to rediscover hope. 

I began this work thinking about The Tommy Thompson Park and the Leslie Spit here in Toronto. This dump site of rubble and rebar on the shores of Lake Ontario, this “accidental wilderness” of trees, wildflowers, lagoons and submerged reefs.  This decades-old landfill, re-activated habitat to migrating and mating birds and insects, amphibians and mammals. I gravitated to thinking about shore birds and waders, those stilt like birds astride that liminal space between earth, air and water. 

While making this new body of work I also discovered the American poet and ecologist W.S. Merwin, (1927 – 2019).  Merwin’s poetry speaks of memory and of loss, the continuum of time, ecology and hope.Working on eighteen acres of wrecked earth at his home on the island of Maui, W.S. Merwin created a garden of palm trees that became The Merwin Conservatory.  The most bio-diverse garden of palm species in the world, was grown on land that was once ruined by pineapple plantations.  

I find hope in making my work and in places of ruin where wildflowers grow, and in the poetry of those who have felt immense loss but continue to create.”

– Jennifer Murphy, Toronto, September 2019