It’s not just Melbourne, though; Cullen has also developed a growing presence in Sydney, in particular at Alaska Projects, where he has presented solo shows over the past two years, including Burnout (2015) and Bapaume Street (2016). He is currently planning to exhibit again at Alaska Projects in 2018.
A recent highlight for Cullen was his inclusion in Primavera 2017: Young Australian Artists (23 August – 19 November 2017) at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. In Certain Remnants (2017), seven ostensible works or manifestations appear: plinth like constructs chipped away at by Cullen like archaeological ruins, and small piles of what appear to be discarded remanets. Here, Cullen follows an artistic process repeated throughout most of his works. He first creates casts (of vases, plinths, columns etc.) in which his objects and mementos are then mixed, coloured, broken-up, dissolved or poured into (and then filled in with plaster) to form a cast of the original form, now buried with personal objects and memories. After, the cast forms are then either broken apart or chipped away at like an archaeologist searching for lost memories.
These objects and mementoes form into ‘finished’ works, however in time they will once again be removed, broken up, brought back to dust by Cullen and, like Phoenixes rising from the ashes, re-used in later projects and sculptures. Cullen’s practice continues in this way, in constant reformation, recycling, reconstruction and deconstruction; each exhibit is really just a petrified moment of a practice in a constant state of becoming.
Neither sculptor, nor ceramicist, nor painter, Cullen is difficult to pin down under any definitive category of contemporary art. It is this quality—of somehow not quite belonging to our times—that shows Cullen’s practice has something to offer us, and perhaps explains his growing presence in Australian contemporary art.
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 83, JAN – MAR, 2018.