2015 has been a busy year for local artist Darren Mulvenna. His passport has been put to good use: helping fuel his imagination. Much of his travels have become inspiration for his next brush with the canvas.
“I went to the South Pacific, mainly the Samoan archipelago, and I got to see New Zealand as well,” Mulvenna tells. “I think going any place new affects your work and thoughts. Mainly, it started me thinking more about landscapes and skies.”
The destinations he visited were rife with inspiration and beauty. During his travels, Mulvenna took a workshop with plein-air artist Richard Robinson. “I have thousands of photos that I really don’t know what to do with but will hopefully use for painting references,” Mulvenna says.
A few of his new works inspired by the miles he docked over the last year will go on display at The Tasting Room. Mulvenna will hold an artist reception next Wednesday, Dec. 16, at 6 p.m. The show will blend new paintings with previously completed works.
“There really isn’t a theme to the show,” the artist clarifies. “I’d say I’m pulling from different themes. I’m on the verge of a couple full series of paintings, but this is just a taste of maybe three totally different realms I’m going in.”
The compilation of work will include what Mulvenna coins as “disappearing landscapes.” They’ll be sites or species that are dwindling because of climate change, human growth or war. In fact, Mulvenna often utilizes his talent to be a voice for current socially conscious issues.
“I have a Samoan fruit bat in one painting, called just ‘Fruit Bat,’” he explains. The Samoan species of the fruit bat are banned from being eaten. “Their bio mass has dropped drastically,” Mulvenna tells. “It’s important for me to think about what’s going on in the world. People think differently on all kinds of issues, and as an artist I try not to tell people what’s right or wrong, but to make people question their thoughts.”
Mulvenna’s acrylic paintings lend their stylistic approach to surrealism. Free words and thoughts become imagery serendipitously. When what appears on canvas is better than what the artist imagined, Mulvenna says it’s magic. “I try to draw my ideas that way; it’s what Bowie was talking about in ‘Sound and Vision,’ I think,” Mulvenna explains.
The minimalist approach to the 1977 track from “Low” juxtaposes synthesized, electronic instrumentals with Bowie’s singular, introverted vocals, which he recorded after the band left the studio. There is a modern effect and sense of capriciousness audible in the song and even more apparent in its creation. The lyrics encapsulate an idea of drifting in solitude, “waiting for the gift of sound and vision.”
“It’s kind of whimsical storytelling art,” Mulvenna describes, something the artist utilizes in creating landscapes and in his upcoming figure series called “Duality.” “So figures, landscapes and storytelling art” will be apparent in the show, according to the artist. “I have some design-type pieces that are purely aesthetic, too.”
One piece in particular goes a little deeper than a mere colorfully enriching scene to hang on a wall. Mulvenna’s ruminations on science and religion make an appearance. “Science and Religion” depicts a boy reaching for his pig, which is coming from the sky.
“You don’t know if he is coming down from heaven or getting blown away,” Mulvenna describes. “I started thinking, ‘What does it all mean?’ Faith is kind of like flying pigs, and science is a lot like faith.”
In the same breath, Mulvenna finds its essence a riff on separation of church and state. It’s quite apropos to the current heightened divide between politics and religion stateside.
“Everything is such a mess,” Mulvenna notes. “It’s like we’re always looking for the perfect answer, but we just get pigs and parachutes falling from the sky.”
The Tasting Room show will feature 10 pieces overall. Plus, Mulvenna will have prints to sell, specifically a large acrylic print of “Polar Bear Displacement.” Mulvenna sold the original large painting earlier in the year, which garnered a lot of interest. “The print will be affordable,” he says. “I’m trying to keep it all affordable for Christmas gifts.”
He will hold a raffle for one of his works, too, during the show, which lasts from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Mulvenna’s art also hangs at Rx, and includes the companion piece to “Science and Religion,” entitled “Dangerous Child.”