We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.

Winner: Archibald Prize 2000

Adam Cullen Portrait of David Wenham

acrylic on canvas

182 x 153 cm

Australian actor David Wenham won hearts around the country as Diver Dan in the ABC television series Seachange but it was after seeing him in the film The boys that Adam Cullen decided he’d like to paint him.

‘In my opinion he is the best actor of his generation,’ says Cullen. ‘What particularly resonates with me is the way he is able to project a powerful intensity in an extremely economical way. I think that what a lot of the great Australian actors have in common is the capacity to communicate emotion without any superfluous action or expression.

‘This unsentimental quality is what I try to achieve in my representation of the figurative image. The Wenham portrait appears to be rather a flat image, but the application of the paint is sculptural without being overtly expressionistic, providing a formally abstract composition. The use of the colour and tone also operates in a similar way. I try to deliver a lot of intensity without an excess of action.’

Cullen was born in 1965 in Sydney, where he lives and works. He has a portrait of surfer Mark Occhilupo in the Daily Telegraph Sporting Portrait Prize, held in conjunction with the Archibald Prize 2000.