A few weekends back, as mentioned here, hubby and I had the chance to stay at the Cullen for a night, in celebration of our 4 year wedding anniversary. Being an avid colour and art lover, the only thing I like more than shopping is visiting art galleries and museums, I was so excited about our stay I had excitement exiting my ears. After being warmly welcomed by the achingly hip staff, we were escorted to our brightly-lit hotel room..and voila!
The next morning, I had the utmost pleasure of attending the Art Aficionado Tour with Jane O’Neil, the hotel’s art curator, a good friend of Adam Cullen, who understands and articulates his paintings so well that I felt like I was live inside his studio. Jane explained about Cullen’s background and his works.
Adam Cullen started the Grunge Art movement in Sydney and in 2000, became the winner of the prestigious Archibald Prize for his depiction of actor David Wenham. He was like Alexander McQueen, who was considered the ‘enfant terrible’ in London fashion, Cullen was the wild one in Australian art. He is Irish, and rumoured to be distantly-related to Ned Kelly so like the majority of Australians, he is on Team Ned. In the hotel, there are numerous paintings of the Kelly gang, of Ned, his horse, his friends, and the policemen who hunted them. I didn’t know about this, but Ned Kelly’s group often dressed in drag, one of his friends used to wear dresses to scout out the local bank. Cullen’s paintings of the men often show them in nighties, wearing lipstick and a quiff. There is only one painting of Ned Kelly in menswear, in his prison greens, a historical documentation of his last day before his sentenced hanging.
Adam Cullen was also fond of exploring the animalistic side of humans. During his art school days, he strapped a rotting pig’s head around his ankle for 2 weeks and took it everywhere he went. Everywhere. To bed, to the bus, to the bar, to push the physical boundaries of art and to demonstrate in a shocking way how humans treat animals. Many paintings of dogs (Growler), horses and even one of the endangered Tasmanian Devil (painted to raise funds to rescue our national fauna) stand in the hotel’s foyer. My personal favourite is his allegoric self-portrait of Phar-Lap. Just like the legendary racer, Cullen has rose to so much fame that he’s also become a ‘winning bet’ in the artistic circles and has to answer to increasing demands from the public.
For me, Cullen’s work not only evoke strong emotions and themes that are close to my heart, justice, human pain and suffering, our treatment towards animals…it is his ingenious amalgamation of colours that captivated my visual senses. Bold, loud and perfectly married, Cullen’s work is a delight to view and study, especially when I’m lying on the soft king size bed.
Thank you so much to Emma, Jess and Jane for organising our stay. We cannot wait to visit the Cullen again!