Paintings by Mersey-side based Irish artist Derek Culley
Gala Leo Casino’s contribution to the Independents Liverpool Biennial
Contemporary Arts Festival
25th September 2010 – 29th November 2010.
Bringing the Temple to the market place?
“Crazy place” is Culley’s description of the venue
for his latest exhibition; “chalk and cheese” was my father’s
only comment when I told him I was attending an exhibition of paintings
in a casino.
And it is bold and daft and optimistic to hang your paintings in a space
where people are doing something tensely absorbing like trying to influence
the fickle goddesses of chance. The gambler’s table-bound gaze does
not swivel to the peripheral walls where hang the paintings - you can’t
realise your dreams unless you place your chips. Even if you’re
there for the purpose of viewing the paintings
it’s hard not to be distracted by the Garden of Earthly Delights
that is the Gala Leo Casino, with its screens of moving colour, mirrored
surfaces, starry, starry night (that’s where the CCTV screens lurk)
and eerie blue light casting a mysterious mist on the still waters of
Queen’s Dock outside.
Are the inhabitants of this realm of (mostly) unfulfilled desire likely
to take notice of the writing on the wall? Not unless it delineates a
system that will guarantee untold wealth is my guess - though I hope I’m
Yet the paintings on the wall have their own intricate kinetic energy
and do address the important stuff. In “Picnic in Baghdad”
a sombre gallery of skull-like images evokes the tradition of vanitas
at the same time that it reminds us of recent killing fields. The way
in which the images are differentiated implies varying evolutionary stages
and responses to suffering: horror, disbelief, resignation, spiritual…The
painting operates on specific/historical and existential levels.
Fascinated since childhood by the spiritual resonances of Tallaght’s
history and Dominican Priory in whose Chapel he was taught religion and
heard Mass (he is currently at work on 14 large panels inspired by this
place) Culley has been influenced by Celtic mysticism in his work. “Keys”
with its recurrent Christian motifs and intensely bright entrance points
of colour offers a way through and beyond the fairground of existence.
This large painting is described as a diptych and the artist is considering
making the division more pronounced but I would respectfully suggest that
the real diptych lies in the juxtaposition of “Picnic in Baghdad”
Suffering and a way beyond suffering.
And placing these (unheeded?) messages in a place where people mistakenly
believe that they are not suffering or that they can alleviate their suffering
by the chance acquisition of unearned wealth creates a powerful metaphor
for the way things are in our casino bank culture whether that was the
intention or not.
Comment left by Eilish on 2nd October, 2010 at 11:01
Sandra has captured the moment in time as if time stood still while those around us dreamt their roll of the Dice would catapult them to another place. Your work adds another splash of colour. Excellent review
Comment left by Nick Stead on 15th October, 2010 at 14:24
I like the art Derek, I think I understand the inspiration, I would like the opportunity to sit in front of it and ponder. It is not the same on a laptop but nice to have the contact nevertheless. Thanks, All the very best, Nick.