Untitled (Particle accelerator), oil on board, 30 x 30cm
Cloud structure, oil & acrylic on board, 30 x 30cm
Mandala, oil & acrylic on board, 30 x 30cm
Biosphere II, oil & acrylic on board, 30 x 30cm
Intangible manifestation, oil & acrylic on board, 30 x 30cm
Selected works: 2007 - 2016
October 20th - November 2nd
__ For Leonardo Da Vinci and his Renaissance peers, expertise in art and science had yet to polarise into separate disciplines as they have today. They co-existed naturally, sharing the same motivations and goals: to describe and understand the world around us and, most importantly, to communicate that vision. In more recent times, there have once again been attempts to create intersections between the artist’s studio and the scientist’s laboratory, not least UCD’s Art in Science initiative which provides a supportive environment for artists within the School of Physics.
__ Mark Cullen is a recent recipient of one of these residencies, and the works in this exhibition both pre-date and overlap his time spent on campus. Cullen’s work seeks to describe our position in relation to our surroundings from the macro level of stars, planets and galaxies, to the micro level: examining aperiodicity, patterns that exist in our DNA and processes as diverse as crystal formation and the sacred geometry of 13th century Islamic tiling.
__ Spanning a period of nine years, the works in Daily Practice juxtapose scientific instruments of perception, such as observatories, neutrino detectors and the CERN hadron collider with the conventions of mandalas as subjective tools for understanding the universe. (A mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol in eastern religions, representing the universe. In common use, "mandala" has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically).
__ The works began while the artist was on residency in Cill Rialaig in 2007, with Autumn Moon the first of an on-going series of paintings sized to the 12” record sleeve standard, depicting a brightly haloed moon that hung above an icy sea in West Kerry. Cullen had recently returned from an extended residency at El Levante in Rosario, Argentina, which took in working trips to the antique observatory at the University of Mendoza and to the internationally funded observatory and research centre at CASLEO in the Argentinian Andes. The concentrated studio time of the residency, where his bedroom doubled as his studio, created an intense space where working and living were indecipherable from the daily practice of making art.
__ On returning to Dublin, he needed to have another aspect to his work that would sustain this energy of daily practice that was commenced in El Levante. To this date, he had been known more for his installations and sculpture and the curatorial work he does with Pallas Projects. For Cullen, working mainly through installations and sculpture is metronomic, with intense off/on periods of work before and after shows, where more often than not work exists as ideas until it reaches the point of exhibition where it is made. Hence, the regularised steady engagement that he was looking for was not necessarily facilitated. __ __ Painting was a new venture for him, an endeavour that rewarded time spent daily in the studio developing work slowly, at the considered pace of oil painting drying. Ideas are addressed in a meditative cycle, repeatedly reflecting on the reduced square plane that is his chosen image size. The works exist as repetitions of square forms that make reference to mandalas and squared circle geometry, where ideas about our dislocation from nature and the planet we inhabit are coupled with sci-fi themes of space travel, terraforming, and alien intercession. In this manner an image bank is steadily being developed where works cross reference with each other directly or obliquely, creating semblances of views, partial constructs, multivalent narratives, position and counter position.
__ Born in Dublin in 1972, Mark Cullen is an artist who also curates exhibitions, projects and events, both independently and as a founding director of Pallas Projects/Studios. He has exhibited in or curated exhibitions at the The Irish Museum Modern Art, the Niland Gallery, Lismore Castle Arts, The Hugh Lane and the Pallas Heights programme 2003-2007. Cullen was curator of the Darklight Digital Film Festival from 1999-2004. Since 2009, he has been a member of Difference Engine, an artist-led collaborative group which produces an evolving series of exhibitions.