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Australian art

Contemporary art

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Anything I say or do



Adam Cullen


09 Oct 1965 - 28 Jul 2012


Adam Cullen's darkly satirical paintings continue to document the flaccid underbelly of contemporary Australian life. They embody a breakdown in the ability to process the 'white noise' of information we encounter daily, from news as entertainment to graffiti, telephone pad doodles, games shows, and punning word plays. Fragments of familiar sentences and images surface in Cullen's paintings, out of context and invested with a surplus of meaning. Cullen's seemingly non-hierarchical choice of references suggests an inability to make value judgements, as if our ethical and moral junk mail filters have been turned off. The underpinnings of our higher cultural and social aspirations surfaces as if our collective unconscious is an endless loop of cheap entertainment and wasted time.

Cullen's social allegories form a cutting portrait of the banal underpinnings of our national psyche, caught in a suspended stage of development. Our pride in being a 'young nation', our admiration for the antihero, and our insistence on doing it our way also leaves us trapped in a perpetual and self-consciously puerile adolescence. Cullen's bad faith with the information that shapes our selves and our nation, is seemingly mirrored in a bad faith in the role of the artist and in painting itself. While Cullen may point to what he sees as being adrift in our society, he also replicates these same traits in his work. This is not satire with a redemptive intent. This painting combines passages of Cullen's more gestural style, with dripping, running and layered paint, interspersed with graffiti-like block letter text and caricature-like figures.

The artist is not just channelling material, he is firmly in control of his artistic repertoire and the visual language of attenuated forms, headless torsos, isolated figures and carefully placed text.




Media category


Materials used

synthetic polymer paint on canvas


153.0 x 214.0 cm


Contemporary Collection Benefactors 2003


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Adam Cullen

Works in the collection


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 3 publications


Connell Nisbet, Look, 'Acquisitive minds', pg. 23-27, Sydney, Dec 2003-Jan 2004, 23 (colour illus.).

Wayne Tunnicliffe, Contemporary: Art Gallery of New South Wales Contemporary Collection, 'Reality bytes', pg.382-423, Sydney, 2006, 398, 399 (colour illus.), 440 (colour illus.). illustration on pg.440 is a detail

Wayne Tunnicliffe, Adam Cullen: let's get lost, 'Let's get lost', pg.8-20, Sydney, 2008, 18, 66-67 (colour illus.), 108 (colour illus.). illustration on page 108 is a detail