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.

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