Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Something Is Changing

At the opening night of "HARVEST" at the W3 Gallery.

In 2018, I started a small series of paintings on the theme of Climate Change entitled "Something Is Changing". I am pleased that three of these pieces have been selected for this years Harvest Exhibition entitled "GATHER" at the W3 Gallery, Acton Town, London, which opened last month.

"Something is Changing 6"
25x20cm. Acrylic on canvas 2019
Since these works were first completed before the pandemic, we have seen even more extremities in the Global weather structures. Flash floods in New York City, wildfires across West America and Europe, not to mention the melting ice caps on both the North and South Poles have caused catastrophic destruction and loss of human life.



"Something is Changing 1"
21x45cm. Acrylic on canvas 2018
In these abstract works, I use bands of colour to suggest temperature, atmosphere and the changing shape of the landscape. I am influenced by the Colour Field artists such as Mark Rothko, Sean Scully and the St Ives Artists - Patrick Heron and Ben Nicholson. "Something is Changing 4" reflects on Global Warming and was conceived after the highest temperature was recorded on July 25th, 2019 in the UK.  The fifth painting in the series embraces the tragedy of the melting ice caps in the Artic and Antartic. "Something is Changing 6" invites us to look at our relationship with the earth and landscape.



We are all aware and have experienced in one way or another the effect of Global Warming and Climate Change in the past few years. I hope the paintings are a reminder that "Something Is Changing"and inspire us in our own individual ways of our responsibilities.


"GATHER" EXHIBITION IS OPEN
NOW UNTIL OCT 23RD
W3 GALLERY,185 ACTON HIGH ST,
LONDON W3 9DJ


All the above photographs taken on opening night of "HARVEST" at the W3 Gallery on Sept 16th.
  

Monday, 1 March 2021

Celebrating 60 - "Painting a Life"



In 1986, I visited an interesting exhibition in the Guinness Hop Store in Dublin. It was called "Painting a Life" and it featured the work of Irish artist, Pauline Bewick. The artist, having reached the age of fifty, decided to bring together as many pieces of artwork from early childhood onward.

Going through my own archives recently, I was confronted with a much larger volume of artworks than I had realised- pen and ink drawings, charcoals, pastels, oil and acrylic canvases, paper cut outs, worked over at least four decades. 
"Untitled" paper cut out collage  84 x 60cm 2010
So, can art also provide the function to"paint a life" and form part of a biography? As I went through my storage space and portfolio's, I could see periods of my life unfolding, in the form of buildings, landscapes, figures or colour, performing similar functions to collections of photographs, letters or postcards.

Reaching another decade, is a time to look back and reflect. So, as I turn sixty this month, I have taken on the task of selecting a dozen or so key pieces, which in sequence, act as a kind of autobiography - and in a way........painting my life.

 1. Beginnings: No. 14 Upper Dorset St, Dublin

I grew up in the heart of Dublin city, in the 1960's. My family ran a small grocery shop in Upper Dorset St, which opened seven days a week. Two doors down from where we lived, in N0.12, the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan was born. Around the corner, in Parnell Square, I made regular visits to the Hugh Lane Gallery,  which housed everything from Impressionist paintings to the works of Jack B Yeats. Painting and drawing was always my passion as a child. I was fortunate my family gave me the time and encouraged me to explore and experiment freely.


2. Exploring Surrealism: The Garden

I was fortunate to have both a sculptor, - Colm Brennan and a surrealist- Jimmy Burns, as art teachers in secondary school. Both of these, nurtured my talents and at times, departed from the school curriculum, so as I could develop my style and technique further. "The Garden" was completed a few years after leaving school and is a tribute to the artists, writers, philosophers, performers and scientists, I had admired the most. It pursues the theme of mortality and art.                                                      

3. Transcendence
I originally trained in design and was awarded Diploma in Visualising in 1980. Working for advertising agencies, I became influenced by graphic art techniques. I was pleased to have a drawing accepted by the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1985 and thereafter awarded prizes in the CDL National Art Competitions in Ireland.
"Transcendence" combined many images I had come across in finished art manuals, books I had read and reproductions from Durer's etchings. The face of the writer Herman Hesse is featured in the central triangles. This large A1 size drawing explores the question of identity, the trauma of life itself, spirituality and our place in the cosmos.


4. The Cheese Shop, Muswell Hill.
I moved to London in March 1989, two days after my birthday. I soon reconnected with my roots via a series of Celtic paintings and exhibited them at the Crocodile Gallery in Muswell Hill. Living in this quaint part of North London, I became interested in the Edwardian buildings and shop fronts surrounding the Broadway. "The Cheese Shop" is one of a series of paintings, in which, I also made limited edition prints. 




 5. Life Drawing
The traditional way of learning art is that good drawing is also a base to good painting. I was largely a representational artist at the time and my drawing was heavily governed by a graphic art approach, with a strong emphasis on linear accuracy.
I attended life drawing classes in a studio in Crouch End, not far from where I lived. The tutor had a vast knowledge of the anatomy, how to represent the figure through observation and I learned the importance of correct timing. After a lot of practise, I began to loosen up and make suggestions rather than direct representations. This would help me later on, when I journeyed through abstraction.



6. Abstraction
It was at the Hampstead School of Art in 2007 that my art took on a new dimension. I was fortunate to have a Head of Painting, Wynn Jones as tutor. He encouraged me to push my boundaries and in his own words to explore artistic "radicalism". I had already been introduced to Mark Rothko's work from another artist friend and I began to delve into the works of the American Abstractionists. I very quickly arrived at a new place in my development as an artist and became absorbed by the use of abstract colour.

7. St. Ives
I first visited St. Ives, Cornwall in 2006. I was aware that this had become a post war artists colony and had been the base for eminent British artists such as Patrick Heron, Peter Lanyon, Terry Frost and Ben Nicholson. I attended classes at the St. Ives School of Art and learnt about the value of print making as another form of expression. The recently opened Tate St. Ives gallery, premiered the first full retrospective of Roger Hilton " Into Seeing New".  I have returned to St. Ives several times since, always appreciating the surrounding space and light of the landscape. 

8. Slade School -2011
Continuing to experiment, I developed a further variety of techniques at the Slade School of Art, London in 2011. I became interested in the relationship of poetry to visual art and used Japanese Haiku, as a basis for some work. I also developed the continuous line technique, drawing on large sheets of paper placed on the studio floor. These drawings have started to form a base for future paintings and more finished pieces.

9. "Sidney" Understanding Dementia
 I first became exposed to dementia in 2010, after the diagnosis of one of my parents. Seeing how this develops and changes the personality of the individual, is a painful experience. It requires  patience and tender, loving care. After my mother passed in 2o15, I became involved with a dementia charity in North London. "Sidney" is dedicated to one of it's earliest members, who has never been forgotten.


10. Climate Change - "Something is Changing"
My climate change paintings entitled " Something is Changing" were first exhibited at the W3 Gallery, Acton Town, Eco Arts Exhibition in 2018.
To date, I have completed six pieces on the theme of Global warming, using bands of colour to suggest temperature, atmosphere and the changing face of our planet.
I am passionate about our responsibility to take action on climate change. It's consequences will affect the lives of future generations.
 


11. Spirituality "Stations of the Cross"
Faith and spirituality has influenced my work in more recent years. Kandinsky once said " The artist must train not only his eye but also his soul".
I dedicated the oil painting, "Shambo"in 2007 to the slaughtered Hindu bull. "Revelation" reflected on the biblical plight of the Israelites and "Hymn to the Mother of God" was based on a religious piece of music by John Tavener. 
As a Christian, I had seen many contemporary versions of the "Stations of the Cross" but I decided to interpret each step in complete abstraction, avoiding any direct figuration. I completed these acrylic sketches in 2017.


12. Under the Influence of Lockdown 2020
No one, would have expected that 2020, would be the year of the pandemic. We would see significant illness and deaths. We would be asked to confine ourselves to our homes for lengthy periods.
This painting was completed during the first lockdown in London. I was short of materials, so I painted over a previously worked canvas, leaving some of the original marks exposed. Ironically, there is great energy and vibrant colour in this painting. One can almost hear a voice which says "Be creative....... Carry on!" 

I have actually, sometimes given up on art, but it for some reason, has never given up on me. So, sixty years on, I will do my best to "Carry on".

Thanks to my family, many friends, muses, teachers and acquaintances who have supported my artistic endeavors over the years.





Tuesday, 1 December 2020

The Window at St. Monica's.

The Window at St. Monica's  Tom Cullen Acrylic on canvas 21x15cm 2020


Stain Glass...Memories...Vivid Colours.. Heavenly feelings.. A sense of timelessness.. These were my earliest recollections of the stain glass windows of my local Dominican church in Dublin. I was about two or three years old. Some years later, as a boy I would visit the nearby Hugh Lane Gallery and be absorbed by the work of Harry Clarke and Evie Hone whose work was shown in a darkened room dedicated to artists who worked in the medium of stain glass.

Close up Nativity Window, St Monica's

St. Monica's Church is located in Palmers Green, North London. It was built in 1914 and the stain glass windows were installed in the late 1920's following an anonymous donation. They are the work of Franz Mayer of Munich and London. There are five windows in the nave and an additional in the Sacred Heart Chapel to the left. These depict the life of Jesus from birth to resurrection.

The window nearest to to the front of the church depicts the traditional nativity scene. We see the Holy Family - Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus surrounded by the Magi and two shepherds. The Magi commonly known as the "Three Wise Men" were noble pilgrims from the East to whom it is said  followed the light of a guiding star, leading them to the place where Jesus was born. In the western churches they are given the names of Melchior, Caspar and Balthazer.

Full view Nativity Window

In recent times, I have sat and spent some time with this particular window.  As an abstract artist, I am pulled in by the vivid colours which have sustained for a hundred years or so. Ultramarine blues, vermillion and deep reds, peppermint greens which contrast with burnt sienna's, lilacs, yellows and oranges painted in a way we can almost touch real gold. Around this nativity scene, I see shepherds, one holding a stick, the other grasping a sheep swung around his neck. An ox and a donkey show their faces, olive trees enhance the background left. To the right, the star of Bethlehem shines brightly with a beam that touches the Magi's halo. We experience this birth with a sense of harmony between humankind and all earthly things.


Detail from The Window At St. Monica's

This year has been far from harmonious for most of us. The contagious and deadly coronavirus has resulted in 61.4 million cases and 1.4 m deaths worldwide to date. We have lived a life of face masks, lockdowns and separation. Families have lost love ones, people have lost jobs. There seemed little hope until last month when three new vaccines were announced.

Above: Detail 
So, when I look through this window at St. Monica's and I see some light shining through, I sense some hope for the future. I started this small acrylic painting in August. Inspired by the mark the window left inside of me, it remained unfinished up to last month. It has several layers underneath. I had given up totally until I decided to mask off  two horizontals and paint the red glaze. As I lifted the masking tape the underlying colours shone through. It had worked and my memory of the window at St. Monica's was complete.

It is worth remembering the Magi quietly avoided Herod on their return when they knew he could not be trusted. The light of the star had got them to their destination and on their return they followed the internal "light" of their spirit.

So, I hope this painting inspired by the window at St. Monica's brings light and hope for better things to come this Christmas.



Monday, 6 April 2020

A Bright Yellow Light


The Yellow Paintings Series No1 Acrylic on Canvas 46x35cm

Somewhere, between last Christmas and the New Year, I came across a programme on BBC Radio 4 called "A Bright Yellow Light". I assumed at this time of year, it was a usual Christmas religious broadcast. But, no, this was something very different. It was an extraordinary interview with Nadim Ednan Laperouse, father of the girl Natasha who had tragically died from an allergic reaction, after eating a sandwich containing sesame seeds at an airport cafe in 2018.

The Yellow Paintings Series No2 
I was familiar with the incident. It had gained widespread media coverage and has culminated in "Natasha's Law" being prepared for legislation next year- which insists that all active ingredients are listed on all pre-packaged food.
However, this was the first time that Natasha's father spoke about a very unusual religious experience which occurred as she passed away. He describes, "A strong soft yellow light appeared, like candle light- really intense but not that your eyes would squint. In great detail these five figures like thin people with features like you or I appeared with wings on their backs. I never saw anything like that in my life, I never expected to. I whooshed them all away. It dawned on me she might die. I shouted "It's not her time!" As I did that, they were gone and Natasha died. There was nothing more that could be done."

The Yellow Paintings Series No3
Nadim Ednan Laperouse goes on to say "Afterwards I know I was meant to see them. I was not a believer at all - someone too full of himself, too arrogant a man really, coming from a business world where people say "I will make myself what I want to be in my own strength". The whole situation showed I was very weak and unable to do anything for my own family. In my lowest moment, that is where God sent the angels for me to see, to tell me that is okay."

He accounts seeing the yellow light a second time - the day Prime Minister, Theresa May mentioned in public his daughters name, Natasha. " I was crying and giving thanks to God. Suddenly the whole room lit up as if someone put the light on, but not normal light. It was this soft yellow light again. It was God saying "I hear you my child". It made me feel , I have a father, someone stronger than me, with no ego like me".


The Yellow Paintings Series No4
It is hard for anyone, even of faith to believe in apparitions like this. But there was something deeply
moving and spiritual in this story which would not leave me after I listened to the interview. From this place, I began the "Yellow Paintings Series" last month. The colour yellow in art often signifies joy, hope and possibility. It symbolises freshness, happiness, positivity and enlightenment. I am reminded of the intense yellows Van Gogh used in his paintings, the transparency of Rothko's colour field paintings and the warmthness of the Eliasson Weather Project - the large sun installation of the Tate Modern in 2003.

The Yellow Paintings Series No5
As I progressed with the series, I became aware the worldwide coronavirus epidemic was no longer "out there" but now on my doorstep here in the UK. Fortunately, during lock down, I had enough paint and canvas in storage to complete these five small pieces. I write this in self isolation now with mild symptoms. There has never been a time where we need hope for the future and to feel there is a "Bright Yellow Light", shining for each one of us. I hope, therefore, the paintings emanate some positive energy for all of us.



In memory of Natasha Ednan Laperouse 2003- 2018
                    

The interview of Nadim Ednan Laperouse by Emily Buchanan is available at:

 www.bbc.co.uk>programmes 
 A Bright Yellow Light - BBC radio 4








                                                   


Tuesday, 10 September 2019

"Something Is Changing"

"Something is Changing 4"
61x46cm. Acrylic on canvas 2019


"Something is Changing 2"
35x29cm. Acrylic on canvas 2018
 In 2018, I started a small series of paintings on the theme of Climate Change entitled "Something Is Changing". I am pleased that three of these pieces have been selected for this years Harvest Exhibition entitled "GATHER" at the W3 Gallery, Acton Town, London.

"Something is Changing 6"
25x20cm. Acrylic on canvas 2019
Since these works were first completed before the pandemic, we have seen even 
more extremities in the Global weather structures. Flash floods in New York City, wildfires across West America and Europe, not to mention the melting ice caps on both the North and South Poles have caused catastrophic destruction and loss of human life.


"Something is Changing 1"
21x45cm. Acrylic on canvas 2018
In these abstract works, I use bands of colour to suggest temperature, atmosphere and the changing shape of the landscape. I am influenced by the Colour Field artists such as Mark Rothko, Sean Scully and the St Ives Artists - Patrick Heron and Ben Nicholson. "Something is Changing 4" reflects on Global Warming and was conceived after the highest temperature was recorded on July 25th, 2019 in the UK.  The fifth painting in the series embraces the tragedy of the melting ice caps in the Artic and Antartic. "Something is Changing 6" invites us to look at our relationship with the earth and landscape.

"Something is Changing 5"
35x29cm. Acrylic on canvas 2019





We are all aware and have experienced in one way or another the effect of Global Warming and Climate Change in the past few years. I hope the paintings are a reminder and inspire us in our own individual ways of our responsibilities around it. 

Something Is Changing.









"GATHER" EXHIBITION IS OPEN FROM SEPT 16TH TO OCT 23RD.
W3 GALLERY, 185 ACTON HIGH ST,LONDON W3 9DJ.


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

"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.

 OPENING RECEPTION JUNE 4TH