World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 259 - Derek Culley
Derek Culley (67) is a self taught painter, born in Ireland and now living in the U.K. He has a distinctive style with colours as ‘cannons of light’. His Irish roots are visible in his works, especially in the Tamh-Lacht paintings. His Catholic upbringing is still noticeable, although he is no longer practicing.
When asked to choose a key-work out of his oeuvre, Derek Culley opts for the work ‘Tamh-Lacht The Wall’. Derek Culley: “I was invited to have a solo exhibition in Tallaght’s municipal town gallery; Rua-Red. Rua-Red is a new modern world-class purpose-built gallery venue which rivals international galleries in its build. Tallaght (Tamh-Lacht in Irish) was a village where I went to school. It is now a sprawling suburb with its own tram station connected with Dublin central. Now largely forgotten Tallaght was a major European monastic centre in the 8th century. I used my response to its history to create 14 canvass, 60x30 inches. The project took me a year to complete. Each work was painted with Microcement and acrylic. Facing ‘Golgotha’ was ‘Tamh Lacht – The Wall’, a powerful display of my works; along with other works of mine. Big Gallery!”
Art as a journey
He experiences his art-making as a journey and a response to concious and unconsious stimuli in the/his Cosmos. His visual language consists of making marks. “My mark-making is my instinctive capturing of this interaction within my physical world. I have not changed my style with art fashions. My central message is one of passion and strong expression.”
Culley got the taste for art from his art teacher, the late Seamus O'Colman, at the age of 15 when he attended Pearse College in Dublin. He had his first studio when he was 16 years old. “It was a garage I rented from the mother of Thomas Kinsella, the Irish Poet. It was on the lane way over my back wall.” A major influence on Culley was an introduction to the works of Lee Krasner, Mark Tobey, Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock and American Abstract Expressionism by the late American actor and Bahai pioneer OZ (Zebby) Whitehead.
He tried to go to the art academy, the NCAD, the National College of Art & Design, in Dublin, as a night student, but that lasted only three weeks. In 1973 he moved to the UK. “That availed me of the opportunity to visit commercial and municipal galleries in London.”
In the mid 80’s he had, what he calls ‘the great fortune’ to meet the artist Denis Bowen, who became his mentor. “He introduced me to the London art world and the art of navigating its peculiarities and complexities. When it came to the contemporary and modern art world, Bowen was a Master Painter with an encyclopaedic knowledge of art and the art world. Bowen taught me a new way to look / question / approach and appreciate art; from being both a viewer and a practitioner.”
Golgotha - The place of the Skull
In 2012 a work of Derek Culley featured at the IEC (International Eucharistic Congress) that was held in Dublin. ‘Golgotha - The place of the Skull’ was displayed behind the altar in the main prayer hall. Culley: “It is a single piece of canvas, 30-foot-long by 59 inches high. It was viewed by a large audience. The International Eucharistic Congress was a truly global event with nuns and pilgrims from all over the world in attendance. Some cardinals and bishops did seem a bit annoyed that a 'contemporary' work by a non-practicing Roman Catholic, with contemporary titles was on display behind the altar as opposed to a more traditional figurative work being on display, ie the more standard Stations of The Cross that most people are familiar with. The act of silent prayer – and mostly women praying – was a powerful setting to witness a work I was involved in bringing about.”
Prior to painting and completing Golgotha he had two significant health issues. “I had not shared my health issues or reasons why I painted 'Golgotha' to the organisers, mostly women, of the congress. Yet women, nuns, from all over the globe responded to the passion and blessing of the work. By nature, I am a shy person. However, the love and honest respect shared by the women during the congress blew me away, as did the power of silent prayer. From witnessing and experiencing the energy of the power of prayer and being part of ‘Golgotha’, I have retained that inner calm and serenity to this day when engaged in art and art making; for which I am grateful.”
Finally, if he sees all of his work, what does he see as the distinctive lines? Culley: “My approach to painting is my approach to painting. I seek spontaneity in my work that is reflective of my moods, my emotions, and my response to all that is beyond me and within me. My use of materials over the years seems to bear a pattern. For sad heavy works I have a preference for oils whilst for the more immediate works, I use Acrylic. I believe an essential aspect of my work is composition and my adherence to a commitment to structure. This is also a feature found in my recent Digital work which I complete on an iPad. Colour plays an essential feature in my work. For me colour is as inherent a feature in my work as is composition. I rarely have a title for a work prior to execution as 90 percent of the time my work is a subconscious reaction which finds a title on completion. My reaction to a completed work is the title -the journey's end for that particular work (or the beginning of the journey!)”
1) Birkdale blues, mixed media on paper, 2004, 2) Chasing my dream, acrylic on canvas, 2004, 3) Chelsea Art Fair, Parallax, 4) Forgotten Man, mixed, 1989-2014 + No Tears Zone, 7 feetx3 feet, 2014, 5) Golgotha, 30ftx5ft single piece of canvas 2007, 8 Red Rua, Opening by Cormac De Barra, 6) Last Supper in case - Painted plaster feet castins 2012, 7) Magic Box - Mixed Media on board, 2008, 8) Moma told me not to come - any size, iPad, 9) My Tribal Journey oil on canvas, 24x24inches, 1990's, 10) Sexual shinings, 48inchsx30inchs, Acrylic on Canvas, 2007, 11) TamhLacht 10-14, 60x30 inches, Microcement+Acrylic, canvas, 2011, 12) TamhLacht 11-14, 60x30inches, Microcement, Acrylic canvas, 2011, 13) TamhLacht 12-14, 60x30inches, 2011, Microcement Acrylic, canvas, 14) Twisted Catholism, oil, canvas