Often associated with the grunge art movement of the early 1990s, Adam Cullen created a distinct visual style utilising bold colours off-set against looming and singular subjects. He chose to explore issues of crime, the overlap between human and animal behaviours, and the changeable role of masculinity in contemporary society. His art is often described as pop art influenced, acknowledging both the visual effect and the elevation of common - if sometimes dark and comical – subject matter to the position of key visual theme in his work.
In his art school days at the City Art Institute (now known as UNSW Art & Design), Cullen is perhaps best remembered for his two-week long performance, wherein he chained a decomposing pig’s head to his ankle. In the years following graduating, Cullen decided to enter the Archibald Prize and in 1998 was hung as a finalist. He then went on to win the 2000 Archibald for his well-known and recognised portrait of actor David Wenham. Cullen was a nine-time finalist in this most sought-after of Australian art prizes and is widely credited with helping to shift the conservative nature of the judging panel.
Adam Cullen has a Diploma of Professional Art and a Master of Fine Arts both from UNSW Art & Design (known as the City Art Institute, and the College of Fine Arts, respectively). He is widely exhibited nationally and internationally and his work is in the permanent collections of the AGNSW and the MCA. In addition to the Archibald in 2000, Cullen is the winner of the 2005 Mosman Art Prize, and the 2008 Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize.
Adam Cullen died at his home in 2012 at the age of 47. He was unwell, having suffered from diabetes and the removal of his pancreas.