This 1986 painting, entitled "The Orphan" by Mulleian quickly drew public attention during the 1980s and 1990s. It's popularity became apparent while on display for six months at one of the largest west coast exhibits after being nominated for the ASI (Artist's Society International) Award. This monumental art competition drew fifteen thousand artists nationally and internationally, and lasted well over a year.
In 1986 one of Mulleian’s most popular paintings, “The Orphan”, was awarded the ASI award by Artist Society International and presented by Charlotte Mailliard at a gala event at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.
It is out of a uniquely poetic imagination that Mulleian asks questions about time, but questions also about feeling and transcendence, about loss and isolation, about mortality and metaphysical realities, about spirit and light, about creativity and destruction, and quite certainly, about hope and transformation.
More than any of his other works, the one painting that manifests virtually all of these characteristic qualities is The Orphan, the award winning, sensitively romantic work that was completed in 1986 and became one of the public's most favorite pieces, and for good reason.
Deeply melancholic, strangely hopeful, and essentially mystical there is a poignant vortex of time depicted here in universal themes of profound loss and gradual decay set among the ongoing, majestic cycles of nature.
Placed in such a context, human intention and suffering are as transient as the nettles in the field, as richly meaningful and inevitable as the passage of a sudden autumn shower. All are necessary, in fact, essential to the whole.
In warmly romantic, gently muted colors, the dappled, richly sensuous play of light caresses the weathered, skeletal remains of a rapidly deteriorating wooden house. At the threshold of the ruin the spirit of a child sits dreaming. How many hopes, how many memories, and how lovingly remembered?
Past, present and future are all presented here, but the prevailing mood is one of overarching serenity. There is an implication that natural cycles of life, though majestically unrelenting may also be understood to be sympathetic when seen in a larger than personal context.
As evidenced in the witness of an onlooking squirrel and a gently arching branch, Nature, in her seasonal breath of autumn, seems to reach to shelter and comfort the child. In transcending the human loss, yet embracing the spiritual force that governs it all, what appears to be a separation may, in fact, be quite the opposite. In one poignant moment, all becomes one, and matter and spirit have found a balance.
As the artist quotes: Structural permanence, falling away to time, is the very brace that weathers against the elements of impermanence. A perfect paradox.
By Paul Deegan