An Interview with Derek Culley

by Gordon Nary



Gordon: Where did you study Art?


Derek: I am self-taught, having managed only three weeks as a night student at the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) in Dublin. I had my first studio at 16 years of age in a garage on the lane behind my house. I rented this from Thomas Kinsella, Irish Poet mother/ My lack of formal training may have contributed both to maverick and personal approach to the art world, leading to my collaborating with other artists, holding solo exhibitions and working as a curator. In the 1980s as a volunteer, I curated exhibitions for the Windsor Community Art Centre (WAC), and this included Damien Hirst’s first solo exhibition.


Gordon: Who are three of your favourite artists and what is unique about each them?


Derek: Mark Tobey for the mystery, flow, and balance in his works.

Caravaggio for his use of light.

Van Gogh for his draughtsmanship.


Gordon: What artist had the greatest influence on your work and please provide some insights into that influence?


Derek: My referees for the Pollock Krasner Foundation* (assessment) regarding my grant application were Stella Santacaterrina and one of my heroes, John Hoyland. It is with great pride that I recount how Hoyland could ‘find no holes’ in my composition. Often paintings will have an area that is weaker than the rest but Hoyland felt these works were complete. I have been influenced by many artists; the American Mark Tobey as having had a particularly personal influence. The calligraphy that influenced Tobey’s work clearly resonates with the idea of visual poetry in my own work. However, I appreciate art from many periods and genres: Reubens, Caravaggio, the drawings of Van Gogh have all made an impression upon me alongside more recent artists such as Jim Dine and the venerable Alan Davie. Both Dine and Davie practice/practiced a fluency consistent throughout their work and showed no fear!


Gordon: Where do you exhibit your work and please share three of your paintings with our readers.


Derek: My works have shown locally and internationally. “Golgotha – The Place of the Skull” has traveled internationally. I was very proud to engage in the positive responses when hung in The Prayer Hall of The IEC 2012*. Silent prayer and a holy setting, just right! The work also worked well in Liverpool Cathedral


I use a visual writing to form a complete composition. Layers of colour and marks form in a symphonic manner until they produce a completed image. Colour is important in my works, which often take the form of groups of coloured panels. For instance, with the fourteen panels of Golgotha,

I subconsciously sought to encourage meditation. When hung in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral it was hard not to think of them in terms of shafts of coloured light. I also work in black and white and reports that some people find this work more immediate. (See Tamh Lacht - The Wall) Interestingly, I take black and white photos of all my significant works. For me, that seeing a coloured image in black and white enables him to look for movement and flow.


Both “Forgotten Man” and “The Last Supper”



were exhibited in The Atkinsons inaugural of The Landing Gallery.

The Last Supper is directly related to my CMT Type 1A disability. I was at the show factory where my shoes are made and noticed the plaster cast of folks with challenged feet, being dumped.


Forgotten Man was started in 1989, fallen through in 2008 and rebuilt. Lost my balance in my studio and basically where the portrait sat was cut out and repositioned on a new canvas with Microcement added to the new blank canvas around the reclaimed canvas with portrait.


Gordon: When did you start working as Arts Correspondent at Family Office Magazine?


Derek: 2017. A chance request from the Editor to write an article with regards to my Digital Art works on iPad.

From there I was invited to write articles I thought may suit the publication. The role is unpaid. I enjoy meeting other artists on line. I see my articles as that of a reporter, and not an art critic.


PKF (Pollock Krasner Foundation)

In 2006-2007 I was awarded a $25,000 grant from the prestigious Pollock-Krasner Foundation (New York).


IEC 2012 catalogue

Tamh Lacht – The Wall

The Atkinson “Landing Gallery” Inaugural exhibition


Gordon: As a former working artist, It has been an honor to interview you.


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