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HomeArt ReviewCulley and Sullivan at Gallery4allarts, Lark Lane

Culley and Sullivan at Gallery4allarts, Lark Lane

Paintings by Derek Culley
Paintings by Derek Culley

Derek Culley & Terry Sullivan – Abstract painting exhibition
Exhibition: 22 May – 17 June 2010

A new joint exhibition of abstract art from two well known abstract painters in Gallery 1 and 2.

Two contemporary abstract painters that really seem to go well together, Derek Culley and Terry Sullivan, are exhibiting at Gallery4allarts in the old police station in Lark Lane.

I can spend a long time looking at the shapes and multicoloured layers. There are several pieces by both artists with the larger pieces in gallery 2 and smaller works in gallery 1. Prints available too.

Paintings by Terry Sullivan
Paintings by Terry Sullivan

About the Artists:


“Born and educated in Dublin, Derek Culley is mainly self taught and intuitive in approach. The language Culley uses is basically that of Abstract Expressionism in its various manifestations through Pollock and De Kooning, adding to the mix some references to Celtic and other sources. But if his language is a complex one, it is also one he has mastered and can on occasion use for his considerable expressive purposes. Since it is a manner which relies on a degree of impulse, his subjects can remain embedded in a welter of signs and marks. But when everything gels, the results have considerable imaginative impact and impressive power.” (Desmond Macavock: The Irish Times 1989). Culley was recently awarded a prestigious Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant (New York) 2006-2007.

“Derek Culley a mark maker”: “I first met with Derek Culley in the late ‘70s. At that time he was looking at Celtic imagery.  Moving to England he discovered the 1950s group of British painters like Terry Frost, Denis Bowan, John Hoyland to name but a few.  Denis, one of the iconic British artists became a close friend and mentor to Derek.  Through immersion in art and consistently looking Culley began to find his voice.

His link with street art cannot be denied.  The apparent abandonment of image towards a form of graffiti like mark making can be descriptive.

Culley uses the marks within the image to unsettle his picture plane.  He uses this technique to understand the surfact tension. Once having lost control of the image he wrestles control back. Being brave in his use of colour, he uses colour in its raw form.  These are not “pretty paintings” but paintings from the heart, sometimes funny often with a logical wisdom.

What makes Derek Culley a painter of note is the fact that he challenges the viewer to look at his world, a world that does not come easy.  But one that comes with an aesthetic challenge. The palette of primary colour can obscure not just the aesthetic quality of the work but lead us the viewer to a world that is on one hand edgy and on the other ordered, almost matmathetical.

To reflect back to the Irishness in Culley’s work many gaps in the knowledge of our contemporary world are still fulfilled by notions of magic and clairvoyance.  These notions come from our imagination.  It is this that Culley taps into, a Yin and Yang, order and fearlessness. Through all of this exploration Culley has remained true to himself and his one constant being a true and brave mark.” (Eamon Colman, Artist / Aosdána, July 2008 – ‘Alternative Entertainments’ Exhibition – Tallaght Dublin)

“Derek Culley, ‘speaks’, communicates with the brush and colour. The language he uses is not always one that the ear and physical mind, would easily perceive or understand, but there is a language that is more aiming to reach and touch ones spirit. It is a language that expresses the joy of life, together with pain, hope and spiritual symbols. He uses marks and symbols, archetypes, numbers, letters, with a confident and colourful stroke, layering colours to create a musical pulsation, that sounds in your ear, if you wish to hear about the  mysteries, the ascension of souls to the light, that is found in most works; sometimes, as effervescent strong colours or much and bright yellow morning light.

As archetypes of the ‘spiritual’ found in his paintings, are: the 3 fish as in the “Fishing three” or fishing mystery, the ladder, the cross, the divine eye, the triangle, the trinity as  a triple cross. The triangles and circles remind us pure forms, thus we can translate Culley’s painting as a form of pure art, judging from its chromatic scheme and symbols. Culley is master of his painting, the ’captain of his ship’, the artist that with the fear of losing the ability of using his hands one day,  due to the condition known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT), paints his struggle day by day,  as if praying with each brush stroke and each brush stroke opens and continues a rising prayer.

As the artist mentioned to me, “some of the works exhibited here, the “19 Days” series, were completed daily, after his Radiotherapy treatment for Prostate Cancer. Although, worried by the outcome of his treatment and saddened by his daily visits to Clatterbridge for treatment, the artist was moved by the courage and strength of other patients who were extremely ill. The “19 Days” series is a set of works which the artist is very proud of as they illustrate the power of art; both as a therapy and a means to focus ones mind away from negativity.” (Derek Culley, 2010)

(Nicole Bartos, Gallery4allarts, 29/04- 7/05/2010)


“Terry Sullivan’s work emerges like vitralium glass against light. The rich colour vibration of his canvasses, takes us into the realms of the metaphysical space with joyous sound visions and intricate layering, details or openings into the artists’ microcosm.

The ‘aura’ of his paintings is mainly warm and its’ active and transforming pulse can go as high as the higher self of the artist. As if he has been allowed a key to opening secret gates or doors into the gardens of the ‘universal sun’, the ‘universal gardens’ populated with light and wonderful vibrations.

Terry has been influenced through the American School of Abstract Expressionism by artists such as de Kooning and Pollock. He has been painting for over fifty decades, exhibiting widely in the UK and abroad (Kuwait). In the early 90’s has worked in The Bridewell along Adrian Henry, Morris Cockrell and others.  His work has been seen by many through large and prestigious exhibitions in various venues across Liverpool, such as the Cornerstone, Hanover galleries, The Pilgrim, The Bluecoat and The Walker.

Since 1995, when he suffered an accident, his painting technique, the way of applying the paint, has changed radically. As an active ‘creator‘, thirsty of work, since the 70’s, he has been experimenting and been preoccupied with collage techniques and mixed media, with earthly materialism, and later with the idea of ‘ boundary’ and frenetic spaces within the painting surface. Gradually, his painting changed, using more diluted paints and softer brush strokes, flowing paint, spraying/ graffiti techniques, dripping, spattering effects and mark making, as if writing using an abstract calligraphy. Colour has become the primordial element in his work; ‘light’ and transparencies showing through the artist’ soul, as through a ‘vitralium’ glass.

The multitude of colour layering that is so relevant and deep, offers the eye and spirit a depth of a true artistic identity. Slowly, he turned towards energetic vibration only.  As John Dockway puts it, “Terry’s work is well away from over mannered technique and compositional cliché.”

In his earlier canvases, the artist mixes colour straight on the canvas, blending spaces together, layering and applying various monoprinting details, but is closer to real life and uses symbols as reminding of the material world and its energy that surrounds him. In his most recent work the artist distances totally from all traces and  symbols that might be reminding of the ‘reality’ or the ‘material world’ and becomes truly his ‘higher self‘.

These ‘portraits’ of inner worlds and light, both in  Terry Sullivan’ s and Derek Culley’s work are easily noticeable and enjoyed, trough ‘ripples’ like visual effect of the colour energy.. . Both artists have recurring mark making tendencies suggesting writing, a spiritual calligraphy, communication or, release within the metaphysical plane, prayers of the heart. Lastly, in some of both artists’ work, the black comes to shape and delimit, cover or shade… As Charles Harrison puts it commenting on “Modernism”/ “Movements in modern art” (pg. 48), “…the activity of the surface of the painting was dictated by less by the actual appearance of the external world than by factors internal to the painting and to the procedures of composition.”
(Nicole Bartos, Gallery4allarts, (29/04- 7/05/2010)

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