John Murphy

An Indefinable Odour of Flowers Forever Cut

1982–4

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Unconfirmed: 2130 x 1855 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Charles Saatchi 1992
Reference
T06527

Display caption

In his paintings of this time Murphy was setting identifiable objects against indefinable grounds. This reflects his preoccupation with the impossibility of perceiving the work of art as something complete in itself. The objects depicted remain, to a large degree, incomplete and illusory. This work reflects the poetic yearning for the unity and order we seek in the fragments that comprise our experience of time, sensations and objects. It has been described as 'a painting of regret for the irreversibility of time' with the fallen blossom below the vase 'an emblem of mortality'.

Gallery label, September 2004

Technique and condition

The canvas was prepared by the artist by stretching linen canvas from Russell and Chapple onto a stretcher manufactured by Bird and Davis. The stretcher had been used previously for another painting. The artist primed the stretched canvas with three or four brushed layers of Rowney's Acrylic Primer.

The composition was drawn onto the primed canvas in graphite pencil. Using Winsor and Newton's artists' oil colours thinned with turpentine 'the paint was worked into the surface of the canvas in a series of thin washes to create the mottled background' (Questionnaire, August 1993) and the flowers and vase painted over this.

The painting is not varnished or framed. The stretcher was replaced on acquisition.