Sunday, 7 June 2015

San Jose 33

San Jose 33 Oil on Canvas 122x76cm Tom Cullen 2010

                                           I painted "San Jose 33" towards the end of 2010,after making a small acrylic sketch in which I experimented with contrasting colour tones and tonal values. This colour combination seemed to work and I changed the profile from horizontal to vertical from the original sketch to improve the composition. The intention was to be very simple,direct and explore some freedom during the painting sessions.
                                                Whilst I was completing this painting, news updates were coming through with regard to the miners trapped in Copiapo,Chile.On the 5th August the mine had collapsed leaving thirty three workers 600 metres underground.Once it was known that they were still alive, the rescuers implemented a comprehensive plan to 

Study for San Jose 33 Acrylic on paper
both nurture and release them. The whole world was now focused on this mission, whilst the miners beneath endured severe food rationing and isolation. However, the moment of global joy came some sixty nine long days later, when one by one, the miners were brought to the surface over a period of almost twenty four hours. For once,the media had something positive to focus on and the world celebrated this success of this mission.
                                                It seemed appropriate therefore to call this painting"San Jose 33". After all it appears from the beginning, it may have been an inner exploration of personal entrapment and the desire for freedom. Given the pain and sacrifice these miners endured during this intensive time of confinement, it is more than important to pay homage to them and also to those who secured them safely.

"Song for San Jose Miners" by Jack Warsaw

Above: Opening Night at the W3 Gallery, "Global Dimensions" Exhibition June 4th.

Sunday, 31 May 2015


"Revelation" Oil on Canvas  Tom Cullen 2007

I painted "Revelation" at the same time and as part of the same painting sessions as"Through the Edge of Darkness" at the Hampstead School of Art, London in 2007. Both paintings emerged as part of the same process whereby I used a camcorder and took some close up stills of some other works I had done previously. Once I was happy with the images I selected, I worked them up on a much greater scale. And so the two paintings came about.

"Revelation" is a reference to The Book of Exodus. In this we are told of how Yaweh (God) appears to Moses at Mount Horeb in the form of a burning bush. This powerful image represents many things to Jews, Christians and Muslims: God's miraculous energy,sacred light, illumination and the loving heart of purity, love and clarity. From a human standpoint it also represents Moses reverence and fear before the divine presence. It was from this point that he became appointed to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and in to the promised land Canann.

Throughout history to the present day tribes and collective groups have had to flee their place of birth in order to escape conflict or natural disaster. More than 35,000 migrants are thought to have crossed from Africa to Europe this year alone and some 1,750 are thought to have died while attempting their journey. More than 750 migrants are thought to have died off the coast of Libya in a boat disaster on the 18th April this year, At least 200 of these were Senegalese and 350 Etrians according to the United Nations but there were also migrants from Syria, Somalia, Sierre Leone, Mali, Gambia, Ivory Coast and Ethiopa.

I am proud to be showing "Revelation" along with some other paintings at the W3 Gallery, Acton Town as part of  "Celebrating Sanctuary and Refugee Week" from June 4th.

For the Israelites, it took many generations to arrive at the promised land, but key I suppose is that they never lost faith and had a set of values from which to live. I expect this is what helped them to get to where they wanted, by being open to possibility and putting their trust in something greater than themselves.

"Revelation" is on show at the"Global Dimensions"- a Celebrating Sanctuary Exhibition at  W3 Gallery, 185 High St, Acton, London W3 9DJ.

   June 4th- 18th.


Sunday, 7 December 2014

Affordable Art - W3 Gallery, Acton Town, London.

Untitled 1 Oil on paper Tom Cullen 2007
The W3 gallery is a West London based contemporary art space which curates and produces projects by artists and arts organisations working across visual arts, sound, moving image and performance.W3 gallery's core aim is to foster creative opportunities and experiences that challenge and stimulate, providing a platform for debate and engagement that explores social, political and cultural issues.The selection criteria emphasises innovation, enquiry and awareness of current debates and issues in visual arts practice.

Untitled 2  Acrylic on paper
I exhibited at "Celebrating Sanctuary" and "Carnival" shows this year at the W3, I am delighted to have had four pieces selected for the December "Affordable Art" Exhibition. It features the work of over 50 local artists with the criteria of "small size, small price".The original art ranges from prints, paintings, jewelry, craft, t-shirts and cards.

Two pieces are untitled, (1)  which I painted in 2007 at the Hampstead School of Art and (2) which came out of a painting session in my studio more recently.

Study for San Jose 33 Acrylic on paper
"Study for San Jose 33" is the original sketch from which the finished painting evolved - dedicated to the survivors of the Chilean mine disaster in 2010. "Going Home Part 2" is the second painting in the series exploring the symptoms of dementia and old age.
Going Home Part 2 Acrylic on paper

"Affordable Art" is at the W3 Gallery, 185 High St, Acton Town,London W3 9DJ.


All works are for sale less than £100.


The gallery is open between 11am- 7pm on Tuesdays-Saturdays and from 12pm-6pm on Sundays.

Opening Night at the Affordable Art Show Dec 4th.

Located in the heart of Acton the W3 Gallery celebrates the artistic diversity of our community. Managed by the Acton Arts Forum and supported by Acton Community Forum, the opening of the gallery in September 2012 brought to light an arena of talented artists coupled with support from the gallery volunteers.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014


 "Carnival" Oil on Canvas 77x122cm Tom Cullen 2010
"Carnival" is part of a pair of paintings in which I further explored my boundaries in abstract representation. The Sean Scully "Walls of Light" works which I saw in the Dublin City, Hugh Lane Gallery in 2010 left a lasting mark in my creative unconscious. I was in awe at the scale of his works and the way he could convey
many different themes and subjects by simply reducing his paintings to blocks and stripes of colour. In the first of my two works "Mona Lisa", I chose to re-interpret the Da Vinci painting in a contemporary way, abstracting the colour and transferring to my own building blocks. The second piece, later to be called "Carnival" explored the boundaries of contrasting and subdued colours. I also focused more strongly on how the colours meet and merge with each other.

"Carnival" detail
I used chalk to divide the canvas into sections and when I was satisfied with the scale, I painted over an ultramarine base. The red and blacks are overlayed several times, so as we can see the contrasting colour shining through underneath. Although there is plenty of colour variation from one row to the next, I also chose to use toned down colour in the rest of the painting. In addition to warm and cool greys that appear, the yellow block in the lower centre has a glaze of black to intentionally reduce the vibrancy of the painting.

"Mona Lisa"
Understanding how each segment of colour touches the next was really important to me when working on this piece. The painter Mark Rothko, was the master of this colour field technique and an artist that I often turn to for inspiration and ideas. A sense of spirit is always important to me both when I am painting or engaging with another artist's work. Breaking the rules of linear convention, such as in the bottom two rows when the blocks break at the same point was also significant in my ambition to push my own artistic boundaries. 

According to Wikipedia, "Traditionally, Carnival is a festive season which occurs before Lent and involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of circus, mask and street party". Colour is integral to the vibrancy and ambiance of "Carnival". It seemed an appropriate title to this piece, having been through such a journey of colour, contrast and spirit. I hope the viewer, therefore may sense some of the energy and jollity associated with Carnival when engaging particularly in the light and colour of this painting.

"Carnival" is on show at the W3 gallery, 185 High St, London W3 9DJ  "Art of Carnival" Exhibition, now extended to July 25th.

Santana performing "Carnaval" at "The Oakland Coliseum, Oakland CA.

Above: Opening Night of "The Art of Carnival" at W3 gallery, London.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

World like a dewdrop......

World like a dewdrop    Acrylic on canvas    122x76cm     Tom Cullen 2011

"World like a dewdrop
Though it's only a dewdrop
Even so, even so."

                                    I painted "World like a dewdrop" in 2011, having read and been influenced by  Japanese haiku poetry. I wanted to explore and interpret some of the principles of haiku in a visual way and through my own language of abstract expressionism. The question of scale interested me. I wanted to develop a relationship between a small entity in the painting and the larger expanse of the canvas itself, using vibrant colour to dictate both harmony and contrast.

                                           Haiku poetry emerged in Japan in the 16th century and has it's roots in  the tradition of Tanga and the developments of Renga. In original format, it consists of three lines of five, seven and five syllables respectively.There are nine haiku rules, which include stating that the poem should be simple and immediate. It should also have connections with real events, sights, sounds or emotions. Another technique used is the contrast between the large and the small, the cosmic and the individual or the profound and the everyday. By comparing the world to a dewdrop for instance, we are forced to change perspective.This may alter our pre-conceived ideas and meanings about our relationship with the world.

                                 There are also links with the Zen Buddhist concepts of Change and Impermanence, Suffering and Compassion, Simplicity and Momentariness, Non-self. Everything is in constant state of change and suffering is key to human existence. Compassion for ourselves and others is essential to combat pain. By learning to live with a little, keeping life simple and by trying to live in the moment we can also come to terms with the human condition. Ultimately ,the idea of a permanent self and ownership is an illusion.

                                        After a few variations of visual interpretations in the form of sketches, I settled on the above concept for the completed painting. So,"World like a dewdrop" emerged - a work about the basics of space, scale and possibility. When the opportunity arose to submit a painting for the "Celebrating Sanctuary" exhibition at the W3 gallery in Acton, London it became an appropriate choice. After all these are important elements which any refugee might face. The world can be a big daunting place, but also can be a small inviting place also. I hope in the context of "Celebrating Sanctuary" that this work might encourage us to look afresh at the refugee's dilemma. I also hope it might inspire new hope for those who seek safety and protection.
                            "World like a dewdrop" is on show at the W3 Gallery, 185 High St, Acton Town, London from June 5th - 22nd as part of the "Celebrating Sanctuary" Exhibition which is linked to Refugee Week (16th-22nd June).

"Through the Fire"

A film which tells the story of three remarkable Somali women who risk their lives to run essential humanitarian projects. When the world abandoned them and their communities, the refused to give up or walk away.

Above: Opening Night at the "Celebrating Sanctuary" Exhibition at W3 gallery, Acton, London.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

                                    Autumn 1964
                                                    (for Karen)

Autumn 1964
Tom Cullen
Red apples hang like globes of light
Against this pale November haze,
And now, although this mist is white,
In half-an-hour a day of days
Will climb into its golden height
And Sunday bells will ring its praise.

The sparkling flint, the darkling yew,
The red brick, less intensely red
Than hawthorn berries bright with dew
Or leaves of creeper still unshed,
The watery sky washed clean and new,
Are all rejoicing with the dead.

The yellowing elm shows yet some green,
The mellowing bells exhultant sound:
Never have light and colour been
So prodigally thrown around
And in the bells the promise                         
Of greater light where Love is found.

                                                                                             John Betjeman  

                                         The word "Autumn" comes from the old French word  "autompne" or "automne" in the modern language and was later modified to the original Latin word "Autumuns". There are rare examples of referring to Autumn in the 12th century, but more common by the 16th. Before this "harvest" was usually the term used for this season.
                                         Autumn marks the transition from summer into winter in the northern hemisphere in September and for the southern hemisphere in March. It is a season that has inspired artists, musicians and poets for centuries.  Autumn is often associated, for instance in poetry with melancholy. The summer has gone and the chill of winter is on the horizon. Skies turn to grey and many people can turn inward physically and mentally.

Detail from Autumn 1964 Oil on Wood 27x80cm Tom Cullen
                       Keats "To Autumn" written in Sept 1819 echoes this sense of  melancholic reflection, but also emphasises the lush abundance of the season. It is also a time of "mellow fruitfulness" and "bounteous fecundity". In the "Wild Swans of Coole", the poet W.B.Yeats referred symbolically to the maturing season as representing his own ageing self.

                     However, for myself, it was the experience of both the intensity and the fantastic variation of colour at this time of year, that eventually allowed the John Betjeman poem "Autumn 1964" to emerge into my art. I didn't intentionally set out to do a painting about the season or even the poem itself. However, I had become interested in poetry as a medium and as part of a group project, began to experiment with transforming the rhytmn and sounds in to marks of colour.

Detail from Autumn 1964 Oil on Wood 27x80cm Tom Cullen
                I used found material - four vertical wood panels, which symbolically began to represent lines of verse, held together by two horizontal pieces at the top and bottom. The layers of browns and ochres which dominate the main part of the piece were completed after a wider pallete range of various colours were formed in the underlay.
                       I positioned the two rectangles and the square in a way that they break up the panels.  This was to convey a sense of linearity and to provide contrast with the looser brushstrokes. To complete this piece, I positioned orange coloured card on the back allowing this hint of colour to shine through the gaps in the panels.
                       Towards the end of this painting and in the weeks that followed,  I began to reflect on Betjeman's vivid description of a bright November day and particularly the lines "Never have light and colour been so prodigally turned around". So this painting emerged as a kind of dialogue to the Betjeman poem and an abstract, symbolic interpretation of this colourful season we call Autumn.

"Autumn 1964" read by Betjeman and set to music by Jim Parker

"Never have light and colour
Been so prodigally thrown around"

"Autumn" from The Four Seasons by Vivaldi

The Four Seasons (Italian: Le quattro stagioni) is a set of four violin concertos by Antonio Vivaldi. Composed in 1723, The Four Seasons is Vivaldi's best-known work, and is among the most popular pieces of Baroque music. The texture of each concerto is varied, each resembling its respective season.

The concertos were first published in 1725 as part of a set of twelve concerti, Vivaldi's Op. 8, entitled Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione (The Contest Between Harmony and Invention). The first four concertos were designated Le quattro stagioni, each being named after a season. Each one is in three movements, with a slow movement between two faster ones.

At the time of writing The Four Seasons, the modern solo form of the concerto had not yet been defined (typically a solo instrument and accompanying orchestra). Vivaldi's original arrangement for solo violin with string quartet and basso continuo helped to define the form.

"Forever Autumn"  Justin Hayward

"Forever Autumn" is a song by Jeff Wayne, Gary Osborne and Paul Vigrass. The original melody was written by Wayne in 1969 as a jingle for a Lego commercial. Vigrass and Osborne, the performers of the original jingle, added lyrics to the song and recorded it for inclusion on their 1972 album Queues. Their interpretation was also released as a single and gained moderate commercial success in Japan, selling more than 100,000 copies and becoming a top-20 hit on the country's record chart.

The best-known version is the recording by Justin Hayward from the album Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds. Wayne wanted to include a love song on the album that sounded like "Forever Autumn", and he decided that the best course of action was to simply use the original song. Hayward, of The Moody Blues, was hand-picked by Wayne to sing it (because, Wayne said, he "wanted that voice from 'Nights In White Satin'"), and it was recorded at London's Advision Studios in 1976. The song reached #5 on the UK Singles Chart in August 1978.

 The song begins with music that sounds almost like a medieval pipe tune, and the song is noteworthy for the lines of its chorus:

"My life will be forever autumn Now you are not here"

Sunday, 25 March 2012

"Going Home" series

Detail from Going Home 1. Acrylic on paper 2012   42x30cm
                               The "Going Home" series of sketches was painted in one session in February of this year. From a family photograph, I extracted three basic colours - black, violet, white and chose to experiment with these. I used acrylic paint for fast drying qualities. Also, I chose paper to enable me to make quick marks when required and this also allowed me to vary the overall proportions from one piece to the next. I worked in a spontaneous way, varying the compositions as I painted and returning to the same theme if it felt appropriate.
Going Home 2.Acrylic on paper 2012   21x11cm
          The overall effect in these pieces may be considered dark or mysterious. It is always important for me to push boundaries in any painting session and to change according to the moment.   The same limited colour palette in each painting has helped retain continuity  in these abstract works.

Going Home 3. 42x30cm
                                             Last year, I spent  several months caring for my mother who was sadly diagnosed with dementia. Despite the trauma of seeing a parent losing their cognitive ability, I saw this situation as an opportunity to develop my life experience. Common effects of dementia include attention, language and problem solving. Especially in later stages, those afflicted may become disoriented in time, in place and in person. The patients short term memory is likely to be affected whilst the long term remains functioning. Because of this, it is quite common for dementia sufferers to request or even demand to "go home" because the memories of their origins are more potent and more comfortable to their present surroundings.

Going Home 4.Acrylic on paper 2012  42x20cm
    During the process of making these paintings and after, I began to  reflect on these valuable days spent with my mother and the whole nature of "home" and it's significance in our path of life. "Home" by definition is "a place of residence" - the place in which a person grew up or feels they belong. But "home" more importantly, may also relate to a mental or emotional state of refuge and comfort. The state of a persons home has been known to physiologically influence their behaviour, emotions and overall mental health. 
                                            So, although this sense of wanting to "go home" is exacerbated in old age and dementia, the desire to go back to our origins, to a place where we have a sense of belonging  and where there is love, is also part our human condition. This is proven, I believe by the vast amount of literature, poetry and music which has devoted itself over the years to the subject of "Going Home".      
Going Home 5.   28x21cm

Going Home 6.   39x21cm


The photograph which inspired the origination of the "Going Home" series.
This series is dedicated to my mother Bertha,
someone who continues to inspire me creatively and someone certainly worth "Going Home" to.

You may leave any comments on the above or share what "home" means to you in the box below.