Adam Cullen

A Stranger is a Friend you haven't met yet, 2002
acrylic on canvas
152.4 x 91.5 cm
signed, dated & inscribed with title (on the reverse)

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Yuill/Crowley, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney

Adam Cullenís work has been variously described as drawing on equal parts narcotic intensity and melancholic empathy. In this image a well-meaning if not overly cheerful sentiment, Ďa stranger is a friend you havenít met yetí encounters a down at heels Cullen character.

The figure, paleolithic in stature and rendered in powerful, gestural black line and bold colouration seems fragile beyond his striking mantel. With face upturned and right shoulder leading as he dissipates below the waist, the tightly framed composition is filled with the suggestion of Ascension.

In paint, the artist has been committed to subjects of pathos, drawing on the peculiar internalisations of life lived, people observed and conversations had. Wayne Tunnicliffe has identified, in Cullenís work, a state of frayed humanity, Ďa humanity that is to be found in failed endeavours, misunderstandings and missed connectionsí (Wayne Tunnicliffe, 2008).

This image gives a fine example of Cullenís reduced but powerful visual language, where graphic lines are coupled with expressive pours of paint in his own manner of stripping away all but the essence of the people and creatures he portrays.

'Cullenís visual language and references are relentlessly local, even parochial, as his work encapsulates a particular experience of contemporary Australian life. Our pride in being a Ďyoung nationí, our admiration for the antihero, our obsession with the vernacular and our insistence on doing it our way, can also leave us trapped in a perpetual and self-consciously puerile adolescence.'

(AGNSW Handbook 2006)

artwork A Stranger is a Friend you haven't met yet by Adam Cullen

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