These works are part of an evolving series concerned with the notion of pilgrimage, or perhaps some deep-seated human need for motion.
They refer to the unchanging nature of landscape and the routes by which we traverse it. No matter how long our journey has taken us, there is always another horizon stretching out beyond our destination. Our pilgrimage never ends. We are on a quest - constantly moving. Does the term "wandering" describe our natural state more accurately than "settled"?
Although no humans make appearances in the early works of this series, they, nonetheless, revolve around humanity. The ancient path that becomes a metalled road, over time, is not the same thing as the modern highway that levels mountains and fills valleys in order to allow the faster passage of traffic to anonymous destinations. Over time, the ancient road takes on a simple spirituality wholly missing from the engineering wonder. The ancient pathway becomes a metaphor for existence, for our lives. When we set out on a journey along these tracks, we accept it on its terms, we allow for the exterior forces of nature, we accept the notion of the journey as a means to revelation, we allow the story to unfold.
Looking across time, over different cultures, it is easy to find examples of significant paths. Think of the Silk Road, whose original premise was commerce, but which became a symbol of something other; or for spiritual reasons, we could look, for example at the Hadj, which leads pilgrims to Mecca by many paths; the route to Santiago de Compostela or the pilgrims paths up the slopes of Cruach Padraig.
There is something paradoxical in the way that the ephemeral walk becomes something of considerable permanence once it is repeated enough.
These paintings juxtapose fairly straightforward images of paths which meander, with flatter areas of seemingly unrelated colour. These flatter areas serve to upset a comfortable reading of the painted representation of the landscape as something to be seen as merely pretty, or an illusion of something actual. By suggesting the colours of ancient mosaics they may also refer to the influence of history on contemporary life.
In Autumn 2008, as the series progressed, I introduced some images of humans, or spirits of humans. In his book "The Gospel according to Jesus Christ" Josť Saramago re- imagines the familiar story putting his own oblique interpretations to stir anew our own ways of thinking. One very vivid image he evoked was of the journey to Bethlehem, prior to Christ's birth. This long trek, in dry lands with a sometimes accompanying angel/devil spirit moved my preoccupation with The Journey into new territories.
The latest works (2009), include references to the notion of community against adversity. This is most evident in the largest of the most recent work, the diptych:- "Sacred Paths: A Journey Started", where, in the left hand panel, two figures walk away from us into a darkened landscape. The right hand panel is a brighter landscape, but there is no evidence of the two humans. There are some drawings of paths through wilderness with ever-extending horizons stretching out into the distance.
John Philip Murray April 2009.
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Journey Towards a Sacred Place.
A Journey, Started.