Portrait: Adam Cullen

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Adam Cullen

Title: Adam Cullen

Collection : National Portrait Gallery of Australia

Medium : Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 152.5 h x 106.5 w

Sitter Profile

Adam Cullen (9 October 1965 – 28 July 2012) Australian artist is most well known for winning the Archibald Prize in 2000 with a portrait of actor David Wenham. He was also famous for his controversial subjects.

Working to the music of punk bands Cullen painted such things as dead cats, 'bloodied' kangaroos, headless women and punk men. Adam’s work dealt with a broad range of topics including crime, masculinity and cowboy culture, and included collaboration for a children’s storybook with convicted criminal Mark ‘Chopper’ Read.

His works skilfully combine humour with an astute sensitivity to society.


Painting Story

I got to know Adam Cullen quite well over the last decade. We were not close mates, but we became friends. I wanted to understand him as an artist because I understood something about his rebelliousness.

I began to think about painting this portrait when he painted the Anita Cobby murderers.  I couldn’t imagine wanting to paint her murderers. I don’t think I could handle it, but that’s Adam. It was the kind of dark thing he was interested in. I found this quite challenging. I wanted to show him in his own environment so the painting reflected him and what he was doing. He was a great subject. He sat himself down on a couple of tins of paint and we talked about the Anita Cobby paintings.

I think this portrait has captured a bit of an impish side of Cullen. He has this, but there’s also that little bit of insanity in the eyes. I think in some ways he enjoyed having a go at everyone. People would ask him how long a portrait took and he ’would say an hour-and-a-half but it goes a lot deeper than that. It’s not about the time it took, it’s about the painting.’  I can really relate to that.

The dripping paint is the result of the way I attack my work. I’m also very spontaneous and aggressive in the way I put my paint down so it would have happened anyway, but it’s also a good reference to Adam’s style. But I didn’t go for the bold, raw colours that Adam uses. I kept them somber. It’s the mood I got from him and also, perhaps, the mood I was in at the time.



Our Friend Who Found Neverland

Adam Cullen 1965-2012

© Copyright David Naseby 2012