Adam John Cullen is a visual artist whose work primarily revolves around sculpture, that stems from his interest in personal narrative. His pieces often reflect on places, people, and events that hold significance for him. Within his 2023 exhibition; Itanos, held at LON Gallery, showcased a series of floor-based vases and urns cast in concrete, hydrostone and oxide, and a large hand sewn curtains/fabric collage alongside dozens of blue and white striped shirts collected while undertaking a residency at Yellow Brick Studio in Athens in 2022. This work exemplifies Cullen’s engagement with material culture, personal stories, and the domestic realm, where objects are deconstructed, merged, and eroded to explore personal archaeologies. Educated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from RMIT University (2006), Honours from Monash University (2008), and a Master in Fine Arts from the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne (2022), Cullen has had his work featured in several solo exhibitions across prestigious venues, including the 2023 Melbourne Now at The National Gallery of Victoria and participated in notable residencies worldwide. His art, which has been recognized in competitions like the Sidney Myer Australian Ceramic Award held at The Shepparton Art Museum and included in public commissions like MoreArt2020, is collected by renowned institutions. Represented by LON Gallery in Melbourne, Cullen continues to contribute significantly to the contemporary art scene with his unique blend of sculptural and installation work.


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What would someone find surprising about the items in your workspace?

Adam John Cullen: Well, if you were to step into my studio, you might be surprised by the odd collection of materials scattered around. As an artist who is materially focused, I try and find the significance in the history and origin of the materials I use. This often includes items with a personal backstory, such as fabric cut from my old shirts, which bear the marks of years of use. Throughout the years, I’ve also participated in several international residencies, each leaving its mark on my collection with unique fabrics or fragments of ceramics, remnants of my work and experiences there. The assortment of materials in my studio is ever-changing, which speaks to my method of collecting materials on a daily basis.

Can you describe your ideal workspace in just three words?

Adam John Cullen: Ah, that would be rundown, large, and messy. I’ve always felt more comfortable in studio spaces that others might consider unkempt or dilapidated. There’s something about a spacious, run-down environment that resonates with the chaotic nature of my creative process. Working with materials like plaster and concrete demands a kind of space where I’m not concerned about making a mess—somewhere I can freely experiment without the worry of ruining the floors or walls. Essentially, my ideal space is akin to a large old shed, and I’m fortunate enough to have found just that.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Adam John Cullen:  interestingly, the advice that stuck with me the most was something I initially despised. In undergrad, some of my lecturers would simply tell me to “keep going” whenever I sought their guidance. At the time, I was looking for more direction, so their seemingly dismissive suggestion frustrated me. However, as I began to mentor younger students, I found myself repeating those very words. I’ve come to realize that this advice isn’t about dismissing concerns but rather encouraging persistence, especially when it’s clear that the creative journey is headed in a promising direction. It’s about not overthinking and allowing the work to evolve naturally. For an artist like me, whose work is intuitively produced, continuing the process is crucial for the artwork to eventually take shape on its own.

Where did you find the courage to follow your own path?

Adam John Cullen: The truth is, I never really saw an alternative path that appealed to me. My journey wasn’t a choice between art and a radically different career, like law or something. Art, in its broadest sense, has always been where I found my footing. Embracing my own path felt less like a bold decision and more like an acceptance of the only career path I was going to take.

How do you centre yourself and find focus in your work?

Adam John Cullen: Creating work is actually very meditative for me. The process of gathering materials and spending time arranging and re-arranging them is calming. It’s in the quiet contemplation of these arrangements, the placement of objects and materials next to each other, that I find focus. This practice can be really absorbing that long stretches of time can pass unnoticed as I refine these groupings. Especially when preparing for a larger exhibition, the act of positioning and repositioning sculptures becomes a method of centring myself, allowing me to dive deep into my creative process.

Does the space where you work hold any special significance or story?

Adam John Cullen: Absolutely. The studio I work in is part of a house with a rich history. While it might have carried a melancholic air due to its past as a deceased estate, it’s also imbued with the love story of the previous owners, an elderly couple remembered fondly by the community. This duality of sadness and affection mirrors the themes I explore in my work, particularly during my master’s thesis on grief in domestic spaces. The garden, with its rose bushes—remnants of a daily gesture of love by the previous owner to his wife—adds a layer of personal and emotional context to my work. This backdrop of past lives, loss, and the passage of time profoundly influences my creative process, making the space an integral part of my artistic narrative.

Facing challenges as a neurodiverse individual, how has this shaped your journey in art?

Adam John Cullen: My dyslexia has undoubtedly played a significant role in shaping my path. Growing up, it posed numerous challenges in academic settings, particularly with tasks that required a strong command of language. However, this struggle led me to discover my strengths in visual thinking and form-based creation. Art school was a much better educational model for me – a space where I could feel that I wasn’t just treading water. This shift towards visual arts allowed me to embrace my dyslexia not as a limitation, but as a lens through which I view the world. It’s a perspective that enriches my work, enabling me to communicate in ways that words cannot. Over time, I’ve learned to navigate my dyslexia, using it as a tool for creativity rather than seeing it as a barrier. This journey has been about finding strengths in transforming personal challenges into sources of inspiration for my practice.

Category : Paul Barbera