Legends of Australian Art: Adam Cullen

If you’re a Tusk follower on Facebook, or you’re a fan of the ABC network in Australia, then you’ve probably noticed the recent talk of the series “The Art of Australia”. The series is presented by the legendary Edmund Capon – the Director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales for 33 years until his retirement in 2011.

Edmund Capon

Click the image of Edmund Capon above to watch the first episode!

The series follows the history of Australian art and its impact on the development of our nation. So far there’s only been one episode but it looks to be a great series well worth a watch if you get the chance!

From the first episode, we follow Edmund through Australia’s positive and negative history, chronicling the artists’ whose artistic influence has moulded the development of Australia’s contemporary culture and now become legendary.

It got me thinking about the artists in our time – the way they have already impacted on Australian culture, and the ways they will continue to do so. One such artist that came to mind is the late Adam Cullen. One of Adam’s most distinctive qualities was the way in which he blatantly enjoyed aggravating the hierarchy of art. Art historian Vivien Gaston perfectly describes how Adam did this:

He courted ugliness: an art that was an assault on the eye in both its subject matter and the way it was painted. His subjects include bleeding animals, drooling dogs, prostitutes and boxers.”

That “drooling dog” would have to be Adam’s dog Growler, whose playful expression was developed into a series of Limited Edition prints – one of the last projects Adam worked on before his death in 2012. The print (depicted below) shows Growler in all his beastly glory – wide-eyed, bite on display, dripping and unrefined edges typical of Cullen, yet with a playful tongue waving at the viewer as though waiting for a playmate.

The 4 colours available in the "Growler" Limited Edition Print, hand signed by Cullen himself

The 4 colours available in the “Growler” Limited Edition Print, hand signed by Cullen himself

Love him or hate him it is undeniable Adam’s art has profoundly impacted on Australian artistic culture. The Archibald prize, a previously conservative portrait prize, has now widened its reach, attracting a variety of art styles and artists alike. This is greatly due to artists, like Adam Cullen (a participant in the competition 9 times, once a winner), aggravating the hierarchy of art and broadening our capacity for diverse artistic appreciation.

With a hotel built in his honour, a permanent collection at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, as well as an increasingly high demand for his work, Adam Cullen has surely left behind a legacy that will permanently stay cemented in Australia’s history.

Adam Cullen

Adam Cullen

To make an enquiry into Adam’s Cullen’s Limited Edition prints available at Tusk Gallery please phone (03) 9827 3338 or email southyarra@tuskgallery.com.au

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