HSC Visual Art Resources

A resource site for visual art teachers and secondary students completing their HSC in the Visual Arts


Adam Cullen
Comedic relief 2000
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
152 x 213cm

Adam Cullen
Anything I say or do 2001
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
153 x 214cm
image credits: http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au

Adam Cullen, born Sydney, 1965-2012.

Adam Cullen’s paintings pushed the boundaries of what painting could be, even within the contemporary art movement. Graffiti style caricatures outlined in bold black lines along with neon paint that dribbled down the canvas, promoting a punk style aesthetic, made him one of Australia’s most collectible artists of his generation. Having won the Archibald in 2000, Adam Cullen was also given a major retrospective solo show at the Art Gallery of NSW in 2008.

Cullen painted in oils, enamel, acrylic and house paints, working fast with quick applications of paint that allows for the run offs that slide down the canvas to become part of his aesthetic. His Archibald winning painting took just a  mere three hours to complete. Cullen was inspired by artists such Sidney Nolan, Mike Parr, Martin  Kippenberger and most resonantly with Goya. Having seen Goya’s artworks whilst overseas on a family trip as a child, Cullen was deeply affected by the up front and confrontational techniques used by Goya to represent concerns about social changes, politics and war.

Cullen’s paintings explored the seedier undertones of everyday life, often expressed in dark, confrontational and sometimes shocking imagery. Concentrating on themes surrounding the human condition, Cullen’s paintings represented issues and concerns within national identity, sexism, racism, the marginalised,  often depicted along with decapitated animals and various bits of hand painted text, portraits often included infamous and famous iconic figures of Australian history such as Chopper Reid and Ned Kelly. Cullen was interested in causing a reaction from the viewer in response to chosen his imagery, which often played humorously toyed with such terms as the Aussie battler, Loserville and the outback bogan in narrative and comically styled depictions. Cullen’s paintings explore concerns within social roles and hierarchy, often employing a graffiti style abstraction that plays against the notion of traditional painting techniques.

Cullen painted what he saw as the inescapable materiality of being human – sex,  death and the messy  body. He sought to elicit strong emotional and physical  responses from his viewers – to bypass the rational in search of an affective  and visceral response.
– Catharine Lumby

Adam’s most distinctive quality as an artist was the way in which he openly and joyously indulged in “borderlining” – seeing how far he could get away with irritating the hierarchy.

– Joanna Mendelssohn

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. Most of his art was about violent or depraved subjects. It’s not so much about their poignancy or vulnerability; it’s just their sheer horror and grunge value.

– Vivien Gaston

Adam Cullen
Nelson and Koko 2012
acrylic on canvas
183 x 183cm
image credits: http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au

Adam Cullen
Australian saints 1999
synthetic polymer paint, ink and enamel on board
107.8 x 208.cm
image credits: http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au



  • Adam Cullen Australian painter
  • won the Archibald in 2000
  • retrospective exhibition held 2008 at the Art Gallery of NSW
  • exhibits non-traditional, unconventional artworks as fine art


  • often large scale paintings
  • made from acrylic, enamel, oil and house paint on canvas
  • painted quickly, references graffiti style painting
  • depicts Australian cultural, social and political concerns through confrontational and humorous imagery.


  • views artwork in public and commercial galleries and museums
  • may or may not be offended by some of the imagery used
  • may or may not get the meanings behind the artworks
  • may view the artworks as more graffiti style street art rather than fine art and question it’s belonging in a gallery or museum
  • may find the artworks humorous
  • may recognise some of the portraits
  • may affiliate with the aussie battler, bogan culture represented in the paintings


  • influenced by painters such as Sidney Nolan, Mike Parr, Martin  Kippenberger and Goya.
  • inspired by Australian society and politics
  • draws from street art, bathroom stall graffiti
  • influenced by the punk scene and culture

Adam Cullen
Oedipus 2008
acrylic, enamel and ink on canvas
152.5 x 101.6 cm
image credits: http://www.heisergallery.com.au

Adam Cullen
Kelly at Glenrowan 2011
Acrylic on Linen
91 x 91 cm
image credits: http://www.artnomad.com.au



  • visually shocking, sometimes confronting material and imagery
  • drawn by the bright colours
  • emotional reaction to social depictions and portraits
  • reminds the viewer of street and graffiti art
  • recognisable dark humor within the artworks


  • bold bright neon colours
  • loose, quick styled brush strokes
  • objects and figures outlines in black
  • painting running down the canvas through quick painting and paint loaded brush
  • oils, acrylic, enamel and house paint on large canvases
  • references graffiti art, working against traditional practices
  • hand scrawled text present in the artworks
  • flat 2d representation of figures and objects
  • portraits often caricature like
  • flat often one colour backgrounds, devoid of any other features


  • explores Australian culture, often representing narrative depictions of Aussie battlers, Loserville and outback bogans 
  • works with social and political concerns
  • often represents the male figure within the middle, lower class
  • both infamous and famous figures as portraits of Australian history
  • questions cultural and social roles
  • presents graffiti styled, content confronting paintings as fine art


  • non traditional painting techniques used
  • irony and parody used to present social and political concerns
  • references graffiti style painting techniques
  • challenges what is fine art

Adam Cullen
Kelly’s Friend 2009
Acrylic on Linen
183 x 183 cm
image credits: http://www.artnomad.com.au

Adam Cullen
Let’s Stick Together 2002
Acrylic, Enamel & Ink on canvas
152 x 213 cm
image credits: http://www.artnomad.com.au


  • skills in paintings, understanding of both traditional and non-traditional painting techniques
  • studied painting and fine art at university
  • paints using a quick techniques
  • worked in a studio
  • sold artworks through commercial galleries
  • presents social and political concerns through confrontational and humorous imagery
  • explores Australian themes, history and social subcultures

Adam Cullen
Mega Mammal 2011
Acrylic on canvas
155 x 152cm
image credits: http://www.michaelreid.com.au

Adam Cullen
What is this thing called science 2002
acrylic, enamel and ink on canvas
182.8 x 244cm
image credits: http://www.michaelreid.com.au







Adam Cullen
New Australian wildlife 2004
acrylic, ink and enamel on canvas
183 x 183cm
image credits: http://www.michaelreid.com.au

Adam Cullen
Mega Fauna (Horse/Roo) 2011
acrylic on canvas
183 x 182.5cm
image credits: http://www.michaelreid.com.au


This entry was posted on 05/08/2012 by in All, Australian, Painting.
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