Kevin Murray's "Roman still-lifes" set to open in Rome

By Kevin Murray

ROME - When does a person acquire a new identity? Some say it is when, in your dreams, you use the language of your new country.

 The Australian painter, Kevin Murray, knew he had become a Roman when he suddenly realized that his pictorcal language resembled that of painters belonging to La Scuola Romana Art Movement. These artists  lived and worked in Rome from the late 1920s until well into the 1960s. Although they each had their own personalities, two things characterized them all firstly, they were figurative rather than abstract painters and sculptors and, secondly, their chief inspiration or Muse was the great city of Rome herself with her ancient monuments, her medieval towers, her Baroque domed churches, her exquisite fountains, her beautiful piazzas, the earth reds, browns and ochres of her buildings. her colourful fruit and vegetable street markests, her meal tables with delicious food and wine, and also her people.

 Among the most prominent of these artists were Mario Mafai and his Estonian wife, Raffael, Ssipione and Fausto Pirandello (son of the playwright Luigi Pirandello). 

 It is not surprising that Kevin Murray has become a painter of the same school - in his birthplace, Sydney, he studied at what is now the National School of Art but, significantly, he studied another four years from 1966 at the "Accademia delle Belle Arti di Roma". Two of his teachers there were artists of "La Scuola Romana": the painter, Franco Gentilini and the graphic artist, Mimmo Maccari. Gentilini juxtaposed the slender forms of young women with stylized versions of church facades while Maccari's masterly lino-block prints express a satirical view of man's, militaristic folly.

 Murray, who calls himself "a descendant of La Scuola Romana", continues his celebration of Roma in this his latest exhibition, Roman Still Lifes, which consist of paintings and some etchngs that often depict  Roman images with flowers and fruit featuring prominently, crusty "casareccio" bread, lambent golden wine, sculptural fennel, roasted red capsicums, "pepperoncini", sweet red onions, and other vegetables which have a personality all of their own., mouth- waterning plates of pasta, and green mineral water bottles labelled, Egeria.

 I asked him, "Do you get a cut from advertising Egeria mineral water?" Murray laughed at the suggestion. He not only enjoys the mineral water but is also intrigued by the myth of the nymph, Egeria who wept when Numa Pompilius, her husband and second King of Rome after Romulus, died Her tears dropped to the ground and immediately, according to the legend, there gushed forth a holy spring of healing water. It still gushes forth even today near the Via Appia Antica where Murray goes to read Art books and to sketch landscapes.

 Kevin Murray's Rome is theme for the exhibition but there is one still-life that does not express a Roman subject. It is his "Homage to May Gibbs" and shows a white vase of flourishing Australian eucalyptus leaves, sprigs of "gum nuts" and lively red Banksia blooms. May Gibbs's children's book, "The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie" was read to Kevin daily at kindergarten and awakened a life-long love of literature. So Murray's homage to Gibbs, an Australian children's author and illustrator, suggests that becoming a Roman was an addition to, rather than, a replacement of his original identity.

 Kevin Murray's show, "Roman Still-lifes" opens on June 22 between 5 and 8 p.m. at Studio Minerva, Via Pietro Micca 6, Rome. If you decide to attend, please confirm by email to dellascala4@gmail.com for catering purposes.