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.


Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Through The Edge Of Darkness

                              Through The Edge Of Darkness  Oil on Canvas 122 x 77cm                                                            
                           "Through The Edge Of Darkness" was painted at "The Hampstead School of Art", London  somewhere between 2007 and 2008. I had become influenced by the emotional, spiritual works of abstract expressionist Mark Rothko. He had experimented, making paintings into experiences of tragedy and ecstasy - the basic conditions of existence.It is said the aim of his life's work was to express the essence of the universal human drama.
                          I began this piece by using a camcorder, taking blurred still pictures of parts of previous paintings that I was interested in. After taking fifty or so miniature photographs, I selected a couple which I worked up into large scale oil paintings. I used a layering process to give a sense of depth - there are reds, ochre's for instance beneath the white and pinks underlining the grey and black. I used a large brush to soften the edges between the three main areas to help them merge and create a sombre effect.
With brother Joe  c1965
                          "Through The Edge Of Darkness" is about facing our worst times - tragedy and despair, pain and suffering, disappointment and loss. We have all been there at some point. Last year, for instance, was not too bad for me until in August,  I got the tragic news that my brother Joe was terminally ill. He was just four years older than me and we were very close "blood brothers". One of my earliest recollections of Joe as a young child was him giving up half of his own pocket-money to buy me a set of crayons. Such was his nature. I remember that sense of wonder looking at these fantastic colours and I began to use them. I expect these early creative experiences influenced my direction in art later on. Later we went to the same school together and he showed me the ropes around the school and yard.
                           Joe was warm, generous, compassionate and good humoured. He was extremely intelligent but yet also had the ability to be simple and engaging. I now realise how much music and literature he introduced me to. Despite being in different countries, we linked up and made contact online several times a week.It is true that life will never be the same without him and since he left us, yes, I have felt the pain.

"Through The Edge Of Darkness" Detail
                           So, looking at "Through The Edge Of Darkness" now, I am reminded of this sad loss. Rothko stated "The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them. And if you, as you say, are moved only by their colour relationship, then you miss the point". 
                           I hope, therefore the viewer may not just engage in the colour and techniques of this work, but may also be moved by their own personal and individual experiences, whatever that may be. 
                           And I expect if Joe was here today, I sense he would say "The key point of this painting is the not the darkness at all but in fact the Light that is shining through."