An ode to Adam Cullen.

23 Jan

Adam Cullen and I had an interesting relationship. At first we were friends, then lovers, then friends, then acquaintances. At times we were enemies. Adam made some lifestyle choices which at the time were incompatible with mine, so we went our separate ways. We had made collaborative works together, and despite our differences, Adam was very supportive of my work, and I of his. I made several portraits of him from 2004 – 2007, and it is during these years that we had the most contact.

whats next

What’s Next? 2004, oil on canvas 150 x 180 cm

Adam Cullen and Growler, 2005, oil on canvas, 180 x 150 cm

Adam passed away on 28 July 2012 after enduring a series of serious medical conditions.

In 2008, he kindly wrote this catalogue essay for me for my solo exhibition Appropriate, at Robin Gibson Gallery.

Cash Brown has always made art… in some form of another. Whether it is printmaking, painting, installation, sculptural objects or drawing, she has maintained a constant devotion to aesthetics. Most importantly, Brown has never lost her sense of play.

This exhibition one might say is a climax, due to the fast she has thrown herself into her own melting pot of mediums she so furiously works with. It is her most major exhibition to date. Formally trained in academic painting at the National Art School, Brown has an almost obsessive preoccupation with the history of western painting and its socio-political baggage. This provides a departure point for her conceptual repertoire of visual and linguistic “gags”. The works in “Appropriate” draw their predominant and immediate visual reference from Gustave Courbet’s famous “Origin of the World” painting from 1866. From the grandfather of modernism one wouldn’t expect anything less!.. In a multitude of sublime meanings it exists as an image of a female torso, but its possible interpretations are practically endless.

“The Origin of the World” could be read as a landscape – a snapshot freeze frames of the infinite, the mystery of the human subject with all its existential pain and bodily pleasures rolled into one curious state of topographical being.

Brown, with her masterly paint work and economy of content and form has unravelled and at the same time appropriated this voyeuristic premise with her own unique technique and system of humour has created a kind of surreal pornography. The voluminous flesh is the surface which she scarifies. I use the term pornographic because we are so overly and completely saturated with nudity. It is nothing short of bravery that Brown undertakes a “series of nudes”. Brown has captured and consequently created a strange animistic and primitive hybrid.

These works are almost dream-scapes, a bizarre document of the evolution of psychoanalysis and hypnotherapy – all the hallmarks of the big themes, feminism, death, beauty and the geography of the unconscious. Close ups of what and how we think a riddle in itself.

Brown’s work is testament to her skill as a painter and a conceptual thinker. One can’t help but look at this manic collection of deliberated psycho sexualised felines and canines classical mythological icons. So why execute such strange and other worldly images made from the mixing of historical references? Why does a dog lick its crotch? Because it can. Why does an artist make cultural artefacts? Because they can.

Finally a great painting is a documented battle between realism, expression and abstraction. Brown successfully and rather uniquely executes this concept of trans substantiation.

Adam Cullen
March 2008

2 Responses to “An ode to Adam Cullen.”

  1. Elizabeth Roberts June 5, 2020 at 2:18 am #

    Cash, perhaps I could buy a print of Adam (smoking in profile) for Kevin’s birthday in August
    he has not seen this but I really think he would like your painting. I do think it is a very good likeness. We have only met once, briefly, with Kevin Cullen, my name is Elizabeth Roberts.

    • mscashbrown June 5, 2020 at 4:29 am #

      Dear Elizabeth
      I do not have any prints available but would be happy to send you the file so you may print one to the size you like.
      Please email me at

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