Q&A with artist Adam John Cullen
Melbourne based artist (and St Kilda bookseller!) Adam John Cullen is one of 78 dynamic Australian artists featured in Melissa Loughnan’s Australiana to Zeitgeist. We chat with Adam about his practice, and the best ways to learn more about other Australian artists.
1. Tell us a little bit about your art practice.
My practice is largely based in sculptural installation, working with themes of commodity exchange/trade, and personal histories of found objects. I studied photography at RMIT and Monash University but slowly made my way over to sculpture after graduating. I’ve been showing for several years around Australia and undertaken residencies in France and Indonesia. I’m represented by Alaska Projects in Sydney and am currently undertaking a two year studio residency at Gertrude Contemporary.
2. What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve ever received in your practice?
The best advice I’ve been given is ‘just keep doing what you’re doing’. It sounds simple enough, but having the self-confidence to follow something through to completion is one of the hardest things to do while undertaking any creative pursuit.
3. How did you find out you were going to be included in Australiana To Zeitgeist? What was your reaction on learning the news?
I actually found out I was included in the publication upon receiving an email from Thames & Hudson asking me to sign a copyright form. I knew the author Melissa Loughnan was in the process of writing it, but I didn’t know she had included me until that email.
I was surprised and flatted; it’s a really nice confidence boost to be included in a publication alongside so many other Australian artists that I respect. Plus it sorts out next year’s Christmas presents:; my entire family is going receive a real ‘humble brag’ of a gift.
4. As well as creating art, you work as a bookseller at Readings St Kilda. Do you find these two roles impact on one another?
Working at Readings is a perfect job to have while working on my own practice. Largely because my artistic research in based in the fields of Cultural studies, Politics, Natural History and Architectural theory. Working in a bookstore that stocks a large range of books in these areas introduces me to texts and publications I might have otherwise missed. Working at Readings also pays the rent on time, something that art is less reliable at doing.
5. What books would you recommend for people interested to learn more about Australian art?
I always recommend reading artist biographies, even if you are not a personal fan of the work they produce/produced. This is the best way to gain an insight into the (not-so-glamorous) daily life of an artist. It’s an excellent place to begin to understand the process of art making. A few recent publications of interest are:
- Modern Love: The lives of John and Sunday Reed by Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan
- Acute Misfortune: The life and death of Adam Cullen by Erik Jensen (to clarify, this book is about a different Adam Cullen)
- Ngarra: The Texta Drawings edited by Nick Tapper
- Kiffy Rubbo: Curating the 1970’s edited by Janine Burke & Helen Hughes
I would also recommend visiting not-for-profit art spaces such as: Gertrude Contemporary, TCB Art Inc., West Space, Bus Projects and MUMA. When you visit pick up a copy of the exhibition catalogue or publication; in doing this you are getting in on the ground level and helping support the next generation of Australian artists.