Mark Cullen

by | 20 Dec, 2018

The One becomes Two, the Two become Three, and by Third the Fourth makes the Unit.

C.G. Jung, Psycology e Alchemy, Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol. 12, Princeton, N.J., 1968.

Mark Cullen has always being interested in using various media, he makes sculptural art as well as installations, wherehis main mean of expression aims to research and explore cosmological principles.

During his residence in 2007 at the El Levante Cultural Centre in Rosario (Argentina), Cullen had the opportunity to visit and work with the antique telescope in the astronomical centre of the Mendoza University and then continuing his research at the international observatory CASLEO located in El Leoncito, Argentinian Andes. The result of this experience was the realization of Star Gazing, an installation which creates a re-connection between the internal environment and the night sky outside, where now it is impossible to see the stars in or near urban centres of the world due to light pollution, through the reproduction, by installing 300 white LED lights of varrying luminousity, of the starry sky of the southern terrestrial hemisphere observed by Cullen during his residence at CASLEO.  The work therefore intends to connect the microcosm with macrocosm, composed here by so many luminous elements that create a harmonious relationship between interdependence and interaction because each element is activated by a solar panel thereby completing an active connection with the stars. The use of natural elements as energy activators means that the harmonic relationship not only builds on but it strengthens, thanks to a process of solidarity, the exchange between man and Universe.

In Cullen’s art this union is often traceable because he is usually operating as a poietes, who during pre-Socratic edge in Greece was both an operator, a creator and a poet. He realizes installations in which the particular crosses over melting with the universal. In this cosmological view, one finds out how the individual is an active part of the universe and how, in his works, it is possible to find the cabalistic and alchemical concept about the Unity of All expressed by Heraclitus of Ephesus, who in his writings expressed how totality was synonymous with completeness and, therefore, of unity with the Universe. In I see a darkness II (2009), the individual experience re-joins with the cosmos tending towards the infinite represented here sculpturally through Costantin Brâncuşi’s Endless Column (1938). The modular repeating shape of the column carries with it the geometric elements that describe through a numerical sequence, attributable to that of Fibonacci, the infinite. The entire installation, which has to be enjoyed in complete darkness, highlights the link between those who experience Cullen’s art that subjectively connects them directly to microanthropos and macronthropos. By passing through a bright Stargate, that connects everybody, through a circular motion, to the Universe and alien species far away, it could be possible to reach metaphorically the Milky Way Galaxy, reproduced on the darkened windows.

By maintaining this duality of research, the artist continues his spectral stars’ investigation with the work Ladies and Gentlemen we are floating in space (2010), which makes a relationships between cryogenic and spacecraft experience. Science and fiction fuse together to form a futuristic living environment, a Sleeper Cell able to accommodate humans for an interspace journey. The perforated vault reproduces the possible spatial vision that only some humans will experience in the future. Again in this case we are in front of an immersive installation that welcomes the public, future astronauts, in an environment whose purpose is to connect the celestial sphere with earthly life. The viewer assumes the role of interstellar traveller who takes as Dante in his Commedia (1304-1321) his experiential journey of the mind, or itinerarium mentis, from the underworld to the stars.

Cullen has continued his exploration of space and human dynamics over the years, producing works such as ARK (2011) and I could sleep for a thousand years (2011), the latter realized for series of “Manifestation” exhibitions ference Engine, that he has been working with since 2009. On these occasions, he began to place beside installation works paintings on which he depicted Mandalas, an ancestral figure founded within complex and avant-garde physical mechanisms such as inside of CERN’s particle accelerator in Geneva. Using the pictorial surface as a real “meaning space” (A.J. Greimas, 1960) Cullen’s semantic becomes recurring, his space exploration, his desire to work for a site-specific space led to the use of 30×30 cm to represent primigenial pictures. The study of the Penrose tiling (1974), a pattern of geometric figures expressing the proportion of the golden section and mirroring aperiodical tiling sets of the near orient, allowed him to obtain decorations of infinite surfaces in an aperiodic manner and to reconcile them with his previous cosmological research, creating the collective installation “Accumulator II”, in which appear Infinite Preserve (2012), Carpet (2013) and Mandala (2013). In these first two works appear with evidence how Penrose tiling is in connection with decorative patterns used in the Middle East and, in particular, with some examples of medieval Islamic geometric patterns, such as the girih (strapwork) tilings for decoration of buildings in Islamic architecture. Cullen’s relationship between science and the cosmos is linked to an indissoluble leitmotiv: the idea that one system of thought operates in parallel with another and reaches similar points of insight is very important for his art, in fact, this way of thinking extolled into Mandala’s work: As within so withouth (2014-2015). The large installation at UCD in Dublin favours the waving nature of the light as it happens when it is diffracted by a quasicrystal forming an icosahedron. This geometric figure assumes a particular significance in Mandala, symbol of perfect knowledge (aurea apprehensio), expressing itself according to the alchemical precepts, in which the cognitive process of the inner self is enveloped by Universe. The symbol of totality, the Mandala, is for Jung (Man and His Symbols, 1964) archetype of the inner order and expresses the fact that there exists a centre of commutation and a periphery circumscribing the All, en tu pan, “All in One”.