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.