John Murphy

Lisson Gallery | 27 Bell Street | London

These are strange paintings—rude, sacred, fearsome. How could they be otherwise when they bear, in whole or in part, the image of the donkey, holy beast of burden? From the cruciform figured by its hide to its lovingly rendered hairy asshole, the donkey is alluded to in various ways. Painted along the lower edges of these works a text reads “The image . . . has nothing to resemble . . . and fascination is passion for the image.” We are transfixed by a torture of matter and made giddy by stroke upon stroke of seething paint. Shades of gray, white and the palest brown are applied to a barely discernible red ground on fine linen. Silent Vertigo, 1989, engenders reverence, an image of the cross seems to burn in tongues of ash. The very title of another work, The Ass’s Silent Vertigo, 1988–89, an image in which the creature rises up on its back hooves, invokes revelational admonishment: “And

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