RESFEST 2001

Transcript of extract from:
Programme: art beat
Subject: Sodom & Gomorrah exhibition
Station: Anna Livia
Date & Time: 29.08.2001 - 7,30 PM
Duration: 12 minutes, 55 sec


PRESENTER: Paul Murnaghan, Good Evening Paul, thank you for coming.

PAUL MURNAGHAN: No problem.

PRESENTER: ... is going to talk to me about an exhibition at the Storehouse, called 'Sodom and Gomorrah - a Reportage of the Lost Cities', exhibition by Italian artist, Alessandro Bavari, and that's until the 5th Of October, so I'll discuss this exhibition with Paul in a minute.

** music break

PRESENTER: 'Sodom and Gomorrah - a Reportage of the Lost Cities', what a great name of the current exhibition, at the Storehouse. It's a show of twelve large paintings from the cities of ... the Biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Here, in studio with me, Paul Murnaghan, creator of the exhibition. 'Paul, the artist, the Italian artist, Alessandro Bavari, issued a statement with his exhibition, and he said that, 'no one knows anything about Sodom and Gomorrah', do you know anything about it, Paul'.

PAUL MURNAGHAN - STOREHOUSE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: I know what his vision of 'Sodom and Gomorrah' is.

PRESENTER: Okay, and how did he

PAUL MURNAGHAN: It's a, well he sees it as a land free of morals, moral restrictions. So basically he depicts these people living in different scenarios. Where he makes you like a voyeur upon their work. Lots of times when you look at it, you find, either they are looking at some initiation rite or something and you see it in their faces, or you are observing somebody observing something, like 'Portrait of a Girl who looks in the Mirror', you've probably seen that image around town.

PRESENTER: Yes, it's around town, in a postcard, yeah.

PAUL MURNAGHAN: It's a narcissistic voyeuristic picture, where she's looking at herself in the mirror and she's mutated into this form, which she believes is a beautiful form. In all the mutations, within the work are meant to be better forms of the human being, so that they can actually perform better sexually and fetishly within this world.

PRESENTER: Oh, is this what it was, 'cos I thought, what was behind the story was the inbreeding that. . .

PAUL MURNAGHAN: Well, the inbreeding is what creates these beautiful creatures.

PRESENTER: And apparently, according to the legend, it was a sort of pride to come up with different bodies, is it.

PAUL MURNAGHAN: Well no, I think that was kind of added by Alessandro. The legend is, obviously it was destroyed by the wrath of God because it was so evil. And he's just saying that it wasn't destroyed and this is how he would depict it, having developed.

PRESENTER: And did he think those cities existed, did he base his work upon ...

PAUL MURNAGHAN: I think he just took those two cities because they were like a blank canvas and he could develop them very well, without anybody being able to say, this is this way or that is that way. It gave him the freedom to give them the freedom.

PRESENTER: Okay, where are they believed to be based, those cities, to be located, sorry?

PAUL MURNAGHAN: In the Bible, as far as I know.

PRESENTER: Because there's something with Pompeii or something, and I think there's been some scholar, researcher ...

PAUL MURNAGHAN: There was a documentary a while ago, about how these, could these cities have existed, and could they have been destroyed around this time. And they did scientific experimentation into the land around that area, the actual, how it's constructed, the layer of mud, and the layer underneath it. It's beside a great, it's beside the sea basically. And they did a couple of tests basically of what the land was like at that time, and there is il volcanic activity around that area, at that time as well. And they surmised that it could actually, they could have slid into the sea and been destroyed, because of the way the earth if compacted around that area.

PRESENTER: Okay, all we have from it anyway today is Alessandro Bavari's picture. What do they look like Paul, 'cos I've seen them, but if you could give an idea to the listeners of my not seeing the show. They're very, I thought they were something between, they're very cinematographical, they're something between Louis Bunel and Tim Burton, what do you think, how would you describe them?

PAUL MURNAGHAN: I'd say, Tim Burton, I think, well there's a certain amount of humour in that alright. I think he might be a little bit more serious. I see pieces, a lot of Yeronimous Bosch and even the construction of, a little from Caravaggio, Giotto, because he comes from the school of Roman painters, he was trained as a classical painter first, but obviously these are not paintings. What they start off as is photographs, where, if you've seen the image, 'Girl who looks at herself' ... 'Portrait of a Girl who looks at herself in the Mirror', that is actually, I met this girl. She actually freaked me out as well, because of her face.

PRESENTER: Oh, it's based on an actual girl.

PAUL MURNAGHAN: These are all real people. Yeah, she was at the opening on Friday. Her name is Laura. She's from his village which is about seventy miles outside Rome. The people ...

PRESENTER: And does she look anything like the picture?

PAUL MURNAGHAN: They are her eyes and her breasts, the nose and mouth are different. By the eyes you can recognise her immediately.

PRESENTER: Okay. I was too busy drinking.

PAUL MURNAGHAN: The portrait of 'Nymphomaniacs in the depths of Gomorrah', are actually five gay men, who posed for him during the Gay Rights, during the Pride March in Rome.

PRESENTER: Nymphomaniac gay men?

PAUL MURNAGHAN: Well they're not, they posed for the shot, and he brings them into the realm of his own world. He uses real people, and like, a lot of the construction is, maybe, there's a cathedral, a broken down cathedral, from Prague. There's an old factory that's broken down in his village. There are people from different walks of life, a lot of his friends, a lot of objects. He constantly photographs textures and scenarios and then he brings them in, which actually adds a strong taste of realism to the work. Even though the work is very imaginary, it looks realistic, because the way the bodies pose and fall, the looks on their faces, you know, they are taken from real life but reconstructed within a digital programme.

PRESENTER: With a surreal feel to it.

PAUL MURNAGHAN: True. There's even elements, I suppose of, a touch of Dali in the odd one.

PRESENTER: Yes, very much so. I'll go back to his techniques in a minute but you've met the man himself. What was he like, he sounds like a mad thing?

PAUL MURNAGHAN: He's not at all actually, he's very quiet. I first saw an image on a CD and I liked it and checked it out on web, and then I emailed him. And then eventually, when I could find the right location to put on his exhibition, I went to his studio in Italy. And there was about eighteen photographs on the ground, and we had he doesn't speak any English, so we had an interpreter, and that girl, standing in the corner, who was very weird, but very nice, but was freaking me out at the time.

PRESENTER: Oh, she's a friend of his. Oh, because this was going to be my next question. 'How did you come across this artist?' So, you saw the ...

PAUL MURNAGHAN: So, we went there, and the images were quite, they were maybe, I don't know, eighteen inches by twelve inches or something, at that time, and we went for the eighteen images. And I put forward to him, the idea of hanging them in, a hundred foot up, and in this circle, and with the number of twelve being a biblical number, and creating that scenario curatorally out of the work. And he was, he was well up for it, so...

PRESENTER: Did you go, did you go out all the way to Italy, to meet him and suggest ...

PAUL MURNAGHAN: Yeah. PRESENTER: Oh very good. And, so this is the world premier basically. It hasn't been shown, this exhibition hasn't been shown anywhere else.

PAUL MURNAGHAN: No, not at all.

PRESENTER: 'Cos, 'cos he's exhibited extensively in France, Russia, South America and everything, but it's his first time in Ireland.

PAUL MURNAGHAN: But in a very, very different format.

PRESENTER: Okay, I was going to ask you also, is this typical of his work, or what does he usually . . .

PAUL MURNAGHAN: No, normally his work would probably be shown like most photographic or digital work a would be shown. It wouldn't have had this curatorial aspect on it. What we're trying to do at the Fifth, which is the gallery you were at on Friday, is to take things onto a different a realm really, to approach them without the normal, I don't know, the little laws that have been laid down for displaying work, which I would, it's not that I would not agree with, I am happy to be ignorant of, and I'm I wanted to, like use my percentage of, my philistine percentage, to show work, you know. To try and show it in completely different ]' ways and ignore what would normally be laid down for it. Like, this is lit, during the day by daylight basically, through the top of the large atrium, twenty-four spotlights underneath spread, with certain types of filters on them, to make it work within the monochromatic elements that are in the work.

PRESENTER: Well, for coming up with such an unusual exhibition, the Storehouse is probably an ideal surrounding, yeah.

PAUL MURNAGHAN: Oh, very much so.

PRESENTER: it's, but it's a sort of a glass pillar.

PAUL MURNAGHAN: Yes. There's a glass atrium that goes up through the first five floors, and then it splits off to the top, where there's a glass three hundred and sixty degree, bar, basically, but my remit is to use the whole building as a blank canvas. So, the next exhibition actually, that's going after this as well, is I'll be using that glass bar in the sky as an indigenous light box and projecting video works onto the side of it, at night, so you can see them as you walk through the city.

PRESENTER: Okay. I'm interested. And is the entry free to this gallery?

PAUL MURNAGHAN: Yes.

PRESENTER: Okay, 'cos I thought you have to pay in to

PAUL MURNAGHAN: You have to pay in if you want to go through that visitor experience, the Guinness Experience.

PRESENTER: Okay. So the artwork is on show for free. How long has it been opened, it's fairly new isn't it?

PAUL MURNAGHAN: Since Christmas.

PRESENTER: Okay. And that's all part of the Thomas Street area revamping?

PAUL MURNAGHAN: Yeah.

PRESENTER: Yeah. It surely looks very nice. I just want to go back to Alessandro Bavari's work, before I let you go. He used many different techniques. Is there any paintings in it at all?

PAUL MURNAGHAN: There is. Like he, when he does a photograph, he could blow up the photograph and then he may paint upon that. He would also use a process of chemical etching to create different textures within the photograph, and then he would scan that in, bring it into the digital programme, and then layer on top of that again. And then he might, you could have any number of photographs on different layers, like layers of tracing paper on top of each other. Until you come to a finished scenario.

PRESENTER: Okay. And they're all black and white pictures?

PAUL MURNAGHAN: Well they're actually four colour. But they do look black and white to an extent, but to print them, to get the effect that he has, you actually use four colours. There's a certain amount of ... there's tiny greens and browns within that black and white as well.

PRESENTER: Okay. The whole result, the whole, the way it's created and everything, you feel somewhere lost between a nightware and a dream, between a fairytale and a horror movie.

PAUL MURNAGHAN: This is true.

PRESENTER: Is that what you intended to do?

PAUL MURNAGHAN: Well, his intention, the work is obviously all from him, but I don't think it was, I think he just wanted to create an alternative reality. And he believes that this in a beautiful form, and that to live without morals is a beautiful thing. And that's what he was trying to show.

PRESENTER: Okay. That was his statement. Paul, you've come recently to the Storehouse. Can I ask you, before I let you go, what your background is?

PAUL MURNAGHAN: Well, very quickly I suppose, I'm an artist, I work still as an artist. I was three years in Art House, developing artistic concepts, using multimedia, running the artistic programme. Before that, I was seven years fronting a band actually, and touring around the world, and at the same time painting, and before that I was a fashion designer.

PRESENTER: Okay.

PAUL MURNAGHAN: A lot of parallel stuff.

PRESENTER: And you ended up in the new media?

PAUL MURNAGHAN: Kind of. I don't consider it really new media, yes this is digital art to an extent. But it's like, it's like when Les Paul invented the electric guitar, people were kind of going, 'okay, this is, that's not real, that's not going to play real music, it's not an acoustic guitar, it's an electric guitar'. He's just got the electric paintbrush, as far as I can see. That's what the digital format does for him.

PRESENTER: Okay. But you didn't let me finish my sentence.

PAUL MURNAGHAN: Sorry.

PRESENTER: I was going to say, the new media area of Dublin.

PAUL MURNAGHAN: Ah right, sorry, excuse me.

PRESENTER: No, that's okay, that was interesting. But I believe Thomas Street, the area of Thomas Street is said to become, what is happening there?

PAUL MURNAGHAN: It's like, they're making a digital hub, that's what they've been saying for a long time. They have, MIT has moved in there, obviously as well. And they develop a lot of scientific and artistic concepts using multimedia. The whole area there is going to be built up, I think, to produce software and many things. And it'll be a link between, hopefully Art House and Project and all the different galleries, and the different scientific and learning areas as well, and colleges, you've got the NCAD as well, obviously. To do work, to actually, a lot of the artists are going to MIT, to see if they can work there, some of them are coming to Storehouse, to put on exhibitions there. I would like to work back towards Art House, Project, and create a digitally creative community, within that area. So that's the hope for the next few years, anyway.

PRESENTER: And are you optimistic about the whole project?

PAUL MURNAGHAN: I actually am very optimistic.

PRESENTER: Yeah, it sounds ... well going by the proposals and everything it sounds very interesting, and bring a bit of dynamism to that area, which is a very good ...

PAUL MURNAGHAN: Very true.

PRESENTER: Okay, well Paul, thank you very much for coming.

PAUL MURNAGHAN: Thank you.

PRESENTER: Paul...

PAUL MURNAGHAN: Murnaghan.

** laugh together

PRESENTER: Murnaghan. Artistic Director of the Storehouse. Thank you for coming.

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