Private collection, Sydney
Adam Cullen’s 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, ‘a stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet’ 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 Cullen’s work, a state of frayed humanity, ‘a humanity that is to be found in failed endeavours, misunderstandings and missed connections’ (Wayne Tunnicliffe, 2008).
This image gives a fine example of Cullen’s 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.
'Cullen’s 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 ‘young nation’, 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)