"Day After Summer", depicting the ending of an enchanting summer in Chico California of 1953. Painting by G. Mark Mulleian.
This extraordinary painting, entitled, Day After Summergives a new meaning to realism, of such magnificent completeness. His astonishing attention to detail is unmatched in the world of art today. Here the artist poses questions relating to time, its nature, meaning, and passage, with a view toward learning of time’s effects upon our inner experience of living.
A skate left abandoned, lies leisurely in an hypnotic summer breeze, as innocence releases its grip from the distant sounds of children, as life to death foreshadowed in a fallen toy soldier, reposing within a world of trust in an era of unquestioning belief, emblemized in a Coca Cola bottle cap of a post-war era, fades into the seasons, in fallen leaves.
A ball invites a game of jacks with only a single jack, a precursor of things to come, prismatic light in the memories
of a passing day that still play under shaded trees.
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DAY AFTER SUMMER
Analysis
Anyone who is familiar with Mulleian’s body of work will know that his paintings are seldom intended to be taken strictly at face value, though at first glance, most of his work, whether classified as landscape, still life, or allegory, might rightly be assumed to be a just-so interpretation of its original subject. However, more often than not, things are not quite precisely what they seem at first glance, despite the photographic realism or attention given to detail. Almost universally, the subject matter in his various works function as metaphor, representing a diverse range of psychological, historical, frequently supernatural perspectives, each assembly of images, in virtually every case, embodying multiple layers of meaning. Across the broad spectrum of his work, from the naturalistic arrangement of familiar objects in everyday settings, to the fractured reality created by ‘thrown together’ objects, Mulleian produces an unforeseen, poignantly transcendent unity out of what initially seem to be unrelated elements. His provocative juxtaposition of images is meant to incline the viewer to enquiry, and compel a reflective but necessarily inductive (rather than deductive) method of understanding. His paintings may tell a story, imply a complexity of meaning by inference or association, or simply register a reflective observation in a somber or quizzical way. But in almost every work, we are given a puzzle designed to engage, confound, and ultimately, illuminate insight within the viewer. The objective of this strategy, essentially providing the viewer with a framework of concepts intended to blend disparate elements into unexpected harmony, is defined by the term “holotropic”, meaning, “oriented to or moving towards wholeness”. It is a subtle, intuitive method of creation for both the artist and, ultimately, for the viewer as well. In terms of intention and expression, each work is designed to propel discovery, often to a poignant, startling or sublime end when all the pieces are finally linked together in the viewer’s understanding.
One simple example of this creative technique is found in the painting, Day After Summer. In this work, Mulleian makes use of a range of Rorschach-like, asymmetrical, feeling-toned details. The Coca Cola bottle cap, a battered old roller skate, fallen, drying, dying autumn leaves, a ball and single jack; all engage the viewer's memory and feeling in an affectionate, familiar way. Yet, each of these objects represents an activity or outlook representing past, present or future reality. The roller skate at the center of the composition might be seen as an agency of intention. It is synonymous with the playful freedom and expectant optimism of childhood, a nostalgic remnant of a more innocent past; while pleasure, perhaps even addictive, indulgent pleasure, emblematic in the image of a bottle cap to the left of the skate, suggests one end of an innocent spectrum of tempting possibilities. At the spectrum's other end, to the right of the skate, are the toy soldiers, one fallen, one firing his weapon, a hint at impending realities, of risks of death and duty, of conflict, killing and being killed in the service of collective might or intended goal. Surrounding this trio of images are the leaves, newly fallen to dry and brittle, suggesting the passage of time, the progression of the seasons; while the ball and single jack suggest the future challenges and oft-repeated dynamics of frustrated aspiration in relation to insufficient means. The painting is not so much a narrative as it is a subtly complex meditation on common parameters within the arch of a single lifespan, set in the frame of sublime, idyllic unconsciousness. The initial feeling of the work is one of natural, static reality; a just-so reflection on a single moment in time. Yet, at the center of this meditation there is a hint of the cyclical infinity of finite things, the implied potentials of universal patterns that form the unifying contours of human life.
By Paul Deegan
DAY AFTER SUMMER