Archibald Prize winner and enfant terrible Adam Cullen – one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists – exhibits his first UK show ‘Iron Mask – The Ned Kelly Series’ at street and contemporary art gallery Black Rat Projects for one week from 22nd – 29th July 2010.
Adam Cullen is an iconoclast artist and thrice Archibald Prize finalist (the Australian equivalent to the Turner Prize), winning the prestigious accolade in 2000. Cullen began making a name for himself back in 1990 where he started to be recognised as one of the most controversial artists to emerge from the Sydney art scene. An art student at the time, he cemented his reputation as a nonconformist after he chained a rotting pig’s head to his ankle and dragged it around for several weeks until the putrefied skull fell apart. He draws inspiration from punk culture that he says gives him “temporary pain relief as a form of escapism.”
Obsessed with the dark side of human nature and the underbelly of Australian culture, Cullen represents what he refers to as ‘Loser-ville’. His work can be found in all major Australian museum collections. “Cullen’s art is keenly collected and difficult to get hold of and Black Rat is excited to have the opportunity to show his work for the first time in the UK, ” said Mike Snelle from Black Rat.
In the ‘Iron Mask’ exhibition, Cullen reinterprets the legendary stories of Ned Kelly, the son of an Irish convict who is a cult figure in Australian folklore. Ned is a hero to some and a villain to many; the Australian outlaw and bushranger has often been compared to Robin Hood. In this series Adam weaves his own version of the personalities involved in the Ned Kelly drama of 1878-80, and Cullen challenges the viewer to question whether there have been any changes in the 120 years of Antipodean criminal activity. In his opinion it is still about “sex, drugs and guns.” He also delves into the psyche of the establishment, the police and judiciary system.
The artist does not glorify the protagonists and acknowledges the moral failings of Kelly’s gang, although he is sympathetic to their cause, as Cullen himself enjoys a proud Irish ancestry. His relatives once lived in the same district as Ned and his gang and were known as Kelly sympathisers, offering the outlaws shelter and help. Stripping away any familiar landscape, Adam revels in painting difficult imagery and has not shied away from depicting the outlaws as cross-dressing enthusiasts with a penchant for opium!
Adam Cullen: Iron Mask – The Ned Kelly Series. Exhibition runs from Thursday 22nd July – Thursday 29th July at Black Rat Projects, Arch 461, Cargo Garden, 83 Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3AY. Hours: Tuesday – Friday 10am – 6pm, Saturday 11am – 4pm. Tel. 020 7613 7200. Website: www.blackratpress.com