Installation view of Jessica Murtagh’s work on display as part of NGV Triennial from 3 December 2023 – 7 April 2024 at NGV International, Melbourne. Photo: Sean Fennessy

Jessica Murtagh

Photo: Matt Turner

Jessica Murtagh
Australia born 1986

Level 2
NGV International
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Jessica Murtagh’s glass vessels draw inspiration from ancient Athenian ceramic amphoras known for their depiction of scenes from everyday life. Her 2021 works highlight human experience within the broader context of the social and economic upheaval caused by COVID-19. Modern relic IX: High priorities in low places captures individuals queuing anxiously at supermarkets, driven by an urgent need to secure supplies, particularly toilet paper. In parallel, Modern relic IV: All in this together, apart portrays individuals wearing face masks while queuing at Centrelink, evoking contemplation of the human consequences of the pandemic in Australia, specifically immediate mass unemployment and a reliance on social benefits.

Jessica Murtagh is an Adelaide-based artist working with blown glass. Murtagh’s practice leans heavily on illustration, using sandcarving and engraving techniques to create imagery and narratives. She draws inspiration from the natural world and classical artefacts contrasted with contemporary themes. Murtagh’s Modern Relic series, 2021, references ancient Athenian ceramic amphoras depicting scenes of everyday life. Adapting an ancient glass technique called cameo glass, Murtagh sandcarves and engraves complex illustrations to the exterior of the vessels, depicting scenes relating to the social and economic fallout of COVID-19 in Australia, online dating and everyday contemporary life. Murtagh’s work is held in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney; and the Parliament House Collection in Canberra.

Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2021