Commonly, art is used to hold a mirror up to society, showing its blemishes and often its sins. While this is a necessary part of art’s function, often organisations fighting societal problems don’t receive direct benefit from it.
It was a desire to combat Irish problems head-on that sparked the idea for Taproot Art in Sophie Murphy’s mind. The first event aimed “to de-stigmatise and raise money to help inner city homelessness and offer fine art and a good time”. Taproot since went on to generate funds for Ireland’s abortion rights campaign. It was a straightforward idea; bring together a large selection of artists from every corner of the globe to contribute pieces for an auction. The money brought in would go towards various charities, and the carefully curated pieces would bond artists and art-lovers under one roof.
Taproot Art return to RARE Art Gallery on Castle Market on Friday September 28 until October 6, this time focusing on the concept of ‘Pairs’, aiming to “explore the power of dual relationships through visual art”, with each work being paired with another.
We caught up with Sophie Murphy to discuss the origins of Taproot and the importance of community in its success.
The first show under the Taproot name was back in January. What prompted you to create an exhibition in this format?
There were many prompts, but one substantial prompt. After coming home from living abroad I was struck all over again by the homelessness crisis in Ireland. I found the amazing charity Inner City Helping Homeless and went from there. I personally had never seen benefit auctions in Ireland, involving emerging contemporary artists.
A silent auction was the initial plan, but despite the generous help from so many people, a lack of resources left me little choice but to personally do the auctioneering. I had no issue with this, except that I had not done multiplication and division on the fly since I was 12. I have intentions to continue doing annual benefit auctions, especially now that I know I can successfully add and subtract on cue.
The reaction to the first one was great, packed out venue all night. It was a nice community vibe, is that an important aspect of Taproot, the “collective”?
The community vibe is absolutely an essential feature – perhaps the best feature. Despite the fact Taproot Art comprises of one person, it is inherently a collective in the sense that it involves so many specimens, not just the artists, but other creative brilliances that exist in this city. Amazing DJs like EVE, James Rodgers, Staxx Lyrical, Ickis & Tadhg and Frank B have all played at various openings, with hip hop artist Blue Niall playing at the Pairs opening. Designers and artists like Decoy and Geoff Ryan, who hand carved a root vegetable gavel, and Rob Mirolo designing the current logo, are always in the orbit. Greg Purcell, Jack Dunne and James Edmondson have offered their camerawork countlessly.
MART Gallery, who donated the initial space, also prioritise the community element. This enabled a harmonious collision of visions. Hugh Cooney performing at the ‘Pairs‘ opening is a massive feat. He is excellent at being two people. The diversity of medium and partnership is great; it keeps things interesting.
Taproot is now a platform for Irish artists. Not just at the launch events, but living on your site too. Did you see a gap where artists in this country needed something like that?
It’s an interesting question. In the art world, I’m not so sure there is ever really a gap. There is no function to be served, per se. You are simply trying to pair some artworks, with those who appreciate and simply like said artworks. This joining dot scenario is really rewarding and makes some interesting shapes. From what I see, it is the only industry that will never really have ‘gaps’ due to its very nature.
Art as a whole is needed, but individual pieces of art – they are never really needed. That’s why the exhibitions are fun as they display why art as a whole, is essential. As for the online element, while still a work in progress, I think selling prints is brilliant as it serves as an affordable option for young and new appreciators and collectors.
Was it important for you to have artists from all over the world represented?
Yes, definitely. Exclusivity, in this sense, I do not understand. Involving artists from anywhere creates an interesting nexus of backgrounds, which only adds to the art and the overall ‘learning element’ of the exhibitions. Spectators can learn, and perhaps the artists too.
While I feel Ireland really emphasises, and justifiably takes pride in. the art it produces, I don’t feel this should exclude the option of exhibiting great works from other lands. Irish art is bought and exhibited in other countries all the time, as it should be. I think the same applies in reverse. If the art is good, it is mutually beneficial for everyone. I like ramen, so I am happy I can buy ramen in Dublin. Molly Malone’s pub in Hiroshima celebrate Paddy’s Day, because, while the food might be questionable, why would you not have a Guinn day if you could? I admit I have never been to Hiroshima, but on both accounts, this is positive.
In terms of curation, how do you go about selecting the theme and matching the artists? It must be exciting to see how the artists respond to the themes?
Sometimes they approach me. Mostly I ask the artists. But the art I acquire is diverse. My taste is admittedly diverse. I guess this is why I keep doing it; the thrill of not knowing what the end product is going to look like. I simply offer a theme, receive art from artists, and try implement some logical structure to their collective display. It is only on the day of installation I see all the physical art. Then you have to put it together like a jigsaw puzzle. It’s like giving a kid a jigsaw puzzle in a ziplock bag, no box for reference, just the pieces. The picture is quite fascinating when you have never seen it before.
The concept of this edition is ‘Pairs’, can you give a little background into how the idea came about?
All the ideas are borne out of a combination of some strand of analytic philosophy, once philosophically trained, there’s no going back (un)fortunately, as well as a feature from the exhibition that preceded it. The previous exhibition, ‘REDNESSNESS’, was inspired by a red-themed going away party I had in Brooklyn. When everyone arrived dressed in red, drinking red wine and eating red apples, I thought, ‘Multiple red arts would make this better’.
I thought to do ‘Pairs’ when I saw two artworks from Steve McCarthy and Jay Miriam, beside one another. They were utterly contrasting and identical at the same time. My mind was blown. ‘Pairs’ also incorporates my enjoyment of contradictions, dichotomies and similarities, from the philosophical side. I was going to call it ‘P & ~P’, which is the notation for a contradiction, but then I realised that it was probable that nobody would show up. Plus, successfully incorporating fruit and vegetables into as many shows as possible is a personal goal; pears are definitely better than peas.
‘Pairs’ runs until October 6 in RARE Art Gallery, Castle Market. Click here for more.