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Kate Murphy

Prayers of a Mother 1999

Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2007

multi-channel digital video, colour, sound, 14min 27s

14 min 27s

About the Artwork

Inspired by the documentary film genre, Murphy uses the video camera as a device to create portraiture. In her videos Murphy’s friends and family discuss their lives, thoughts and interests; and she presents herself in a range of roles: as an artist, friend, daughter and sister. In some works, Murphy extends the idea of formal portraiture by allowing her sitters to interact by holding the camera and making parallel recordings from their point of view; the resultant works raise questions about perspective, authorship, and control.

Prayers of a Mother depicts eight children listening to their mother as she describes her life of prayer. This group portrait of Murphy’s family centres upon the artist’s mother and the daily prayers that she says for the wellbeing of her children. Instead of seeing her mother’s face, however, we only observe a close-up of her hands holding a prayer book and rosary. Surrounding this central image are four screens depicting Murphy and her siblings as they listen silently to their mother. Their faces reveal responses from empathy to humour, surprise and sadness, as their mother recounts her private hopes for their health and happiness. Here we witness one mother’s devotion to her family and religion; and we learn of her passionate desire for her children to all one day return to the Catholic faith.

Artist Statement

I am interested in the interplay between portraiture and the various forms of documentary including film and TV documentary, reality TV and the home video. I choose as my subjects people who I believe have a unique story or perspective to share with an audience. I create single and multi-channel video installations exploring a multiplicity of viewpoints; that of the subject, the camera, the observer, the viewer, and examine how these unfold in video portraiture.

Prayers of a Mother (1999) was created in my final year of art school and introduced me to the diverse capabilities of the moving image and documentary practices which continue to influence my work. The theory and practice of documentary provides a framework in which I investigate the ‘modes of representation’ that exist within the genre such as the observational, the participatory, the reflexive and the performative. The different techniques of recording my subjects expose the significant attributes of the person creating a sense of portraiture.

I create single and multi-channel video installations exploring a multiplicity of viewpoints; that of the subject, the camera, the observer, the viewer, and examine how these unfold in video portraiture.

Kate Murphy, 2012

Kate Murphy

– About the artist


Born 1977 Queanbeyan, New South Wales. Lives and works Dublin, Ireland and Sydney, Australia.

Learn more

Learn more

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