David Murphy at Dales Countryside Museum


Project Info


  • David Murphy

Art Forms

  • Sculpture Installation and Performance


  • Dales Countryside Museum
  • Arts&Heritage
  • Arts Council England’s Museum Resilience Fund

Project Outline

SPEAR is part of the Meeting Point programme.

SPEAR was an architectural intervention on Lake Semerwater – celebrating one of the museum’s most treasured exhibits and remembering the myths and legends of Semerwater. The project saw an architectural-scale copper spearhead installed on the lake’s waters over two nights, Friday 28 & Saturday 29 October 2016.

The fully-accessible installation reached 30 metres across Lake Semerwater, connected to the shore by a floating walkway. Visitors had the chance to explore the artwork and to view the landscape from a unique position on the lake itself.

Taking place during the UK-wide Museums at Night festival in 2016, a series of events helped to bring the installation to life. Music, readings and special performances from Sion Parkinson told the story of Lake Semerwater and its mythical past.

Artist David Murphy said:

“Visitors to the Dales Countryside Museum will know that one of its most precious objects is a Bronze Age spearhead, found on the shores of Lake Semerwater in 1937. What many people won’t know is that – according to local folklore – a city once existed on the site of Lake Semerwater, but a curse sent it deep beneath the water.

SPEAR reflects elements of Sir William Watson’s The Ballad of Semerwater, which famously recounts the tale of the lost city, and at the same time makes a physical link to the treasures the lake has bestowed on the area. In a way we’re returning the spearhead to the lake, where it was discovered”


  • The project is to bring together the origin mythology of the lake with archaeological finds
  • To create an atmospheric space to alter our perceptions of the surrounding landscape
  • An opportunity to create an extraordinary event


Arts&Heritage has supported the nine museums participating in Meeting Point throughout the process, sharing knowledge of presenting contemporary art projects and commissions in non-traditional art spaces.

A networking event between the participating museums and 40 artists from across the UK took place at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and visits to artists’ studios were arranged. Museum teams also met with peers at other properties to learn how they successfully delivered contemporary art projects at their museums and heritage sites.

All museums developed their own Artist’s Brief. Following the networking event artists were invited to send in an expression of interest to museums that interested therm.

Three artists were shortlisted by each museum to draw up a more detailed proposal and were paid £500 each.

The Artist

David Murphy (b. 1983, Newcastle upon Tyne) studied at Newcastle College and the Glasgow School of Art and currently lives in London.

Recent exhibitions include: Groundwork, The New Art Centre, Salisbury (2015); Deep Deeper, Galleria Monica de Cardenas, Milan, Italy (2015); Keep it Real, Bayt Al Sin­nari Centre for Culture, Cairo, Egypt (2015); Certain Impacts, PEER, London (2014); and Zeichnung ohne Zeichnung, Christian Ehrentraut, Berlin (2013).

He was artist in residence in Murano, Italy (2015); and at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2014). He is the current recipient of the Kenneth Armitage Foundation Fellowship, London (2015-17)

He is represented by Galleria Monica de Cardenas, Milan/Zuoz.