Editing issue 25’s Commentary, actor Cillian Murphy selects a photo story on Dublin by Rich Gilligan

“I don’t relish having my photograph taken. Strangely I know a lot of actors who feel the same way… I have worked with Rich Gilligan several times over the last decade, and for him I make an exception. He is a proper artist, one who understands how powerful, emotional and elusive an image can be.”

– Cillian Murphy

Cillian Murphy: Can you tell me how the project was born?

Rich Gilligan: This body of work came about as part of a collaborative book project, published by The Salvage Press in Dublin in 2018. Jamie Murphy (who designed, typeset and letterpress printed the entire book) approached myself and the poet Anne-marie Ní Churreáin to create fresh bodies of work somehow connected to Dublin. The brief was open to our interpretations and we worked independently until Jamie made sense of our individual narratives and combined the work through the lay- out of the book.

CM: It seems that you were seeking to represent Dublin in detail and texture rather than scale. Would that be accurate?

RG: Yeah, that’s true in a sense. I guess the fact that I grew up in Dublin and that it’s a place I know in great detail means that the work inevitably becomes personal, and, although I no longer call Dublin my home, I still feel a strong connection and familiarity to the city. The challenge with this work was to try to represent the distinct atmosphere and rhythm of the city relative to my own personal experience without the work feeling overly representational or sentimental.

CM: Can you tell me about being an Irish artist living and working in the states, and what that brings to your work?

RG: Living and working in New York, I do find myself tuned into a different frequency. There exists a heightened sense of my Irishness, but also a strange feeling that the place is constantly changing and evolving in your absence.

CM: Ireland seems to be experiencing a very fertile period across the arts: music, literature, visual art… Do you have any insight into what alchemy might be at play in creating this moment?

RG: It’s rare that while a movement is actually happening, people have a chance to pause and acknowledge it. After moving to NYC I found myself almost exclusively listening to Irish music and reading new Irish writers. For a long time I attributed this to some form of nostalgia, but, on reflection, I’ve realised it’s simply because there is so much incredible work consistently coming out of Ireland that it’s almost impossible to keep up. There is something uniquely visceral and confident about these new voices, and that is what stands out most to me. When that fresh confidence is mixed in with raw talent, things get really exciting. I’m not entirely sure what has driven this creative surge, but I like to think it may be one of the few positive forces that often come out of a downturn in the economy; like somehow now we’re witnessing the fruits of the creativity that was happening at such a challenging time.

This article is taken from issue 25. To buy the issue or subscribe, click here