First encounters: Gavin Murphy and Anne-Maree Barry

Fri, Aug 30, 2013, 16:49

Gavin Murphy is an artist and curator working as co-director of Pallas Projects & Studios, Dublin. He has exhibited work in Brussels, Berlin and Melbourne and is the author of On Seeing Only Totally New Things

In 2005 I had just come back from Australia, working in music and visual design, having graduated from doing fine art. I bumped into Anne-Maree in the middle of Urban Outfitters. Right in the middle – one of us going up that stairs and the other one coming down. A mutual friend of ours was DJing, who introduced us: “You do art. You do art too. You should talk.”

What I immediately noticed about Anne-Maree is that she is so determined. I could tell she was very serious about her work underneath the fun-loving side of her.

We were interested in the same things, almost by accident. We both started working on films about architecture and the built environment, completely independently, without having ever spoken about it. They both turned out to be quite different things, but both had this idea of cultural wellbeing at bottom. I tend away from the personal a bit, as opposed to Anne-Maree.

She’s always been around when I need help, personally or with work. I was shooting an artwork a couple of years ago that involved somebody smoking a cigarette. Anne-Maree had just given up. Still, she let me film her chain-smoking in Temple Bar for an hour, while I took the shot over and over again. She was sick as a dog. That’s commitment to a friendship.

We’re like each other’s safety blanket in terms of our work. The first time I made standalone film I thought I knew what I was doing. The week before, I rang Anne-Maree to ask her to come on the shoot. She mentioned something called a “shot list”, which I’d never heard of. I went on the internet and learned the terms the night before so I wouldn’t look like an idiot in front of the director of photography.

On the day of the shoot, we stopped for lunch. She just turned to me, in the way that she does, and said, “You’re fine. I’m going to leave.” After that I was confident to plough on.

Anne-Maree is always threatening to break Hollywood. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens. I’m always encouraging her to travel with her work. Hopefully she’ll go away for a little bit, make some films somewhere else, and then come back here to us. Red carpets beckon, certainly. As well as the very serious art gallery retrospective, of course.

Anne-Maree Barry is an award-winning artist and filmmaker, whose work includes the documentary short film Missing Green

When I first met Gavin, I thought he was quite serious, very focused on his work. He had been doing similar work to what I had done, like visuals in nightclubs.

I could see he was a bit frustrated with that and wanted to move in a new direction – the more I got to know him the funnier he became. We both have a similar sense of humour.

We went to see the Darjeeling Limited together in the IFI. There’s the scene where the family are trying to figure out who loves who the most. Me and Gavin were laughing like mad. Nobody else was. I think we got that from our own families, like: “Who does my dad love the most? Who does my mum love the most?”

When it comes to work, there is a crossover in our interests. However, I think the ideas and the concepts we’re interested in are executed
differently. I would interweave my own personal stories into my art, Gavin would make things more universal.

Still, we’re both very particular about what we do, down to the fine details. I think we both
recognise this in each other.

On a personal level, he’s great support. My dad passed away suddenly – when I returned to Dublin, Gavin met me from the Cork train and brought me home. I really appreciated that. After being with my family for so long it was nice to come back to Dublin and be greeted by my friend.

I was talking to somebody recently about
Apocalypse Now, how Francis Ford Coppola went crazy making it.

I was starting to go nuts making Missing Green. It was a labour of love and there was so much isolation involved. I was ready to go to a completely different place with the film, but I met up with Gavin, and he completely calmed me down.

I hadn’t been involved in group projects before working with him, he really helps me put my work in a gallery context.

I see Gavin becoming a venerable Irish contemporary artist. I want to see his work in ArtForum and Frieze. He has already done some great work with Pallas Projects/
Studios, and I see that and his own personal work expanding over the next few years. I also want to see him making another film – one without me smoking in it!