Adam Cullen

New I Wish I Was Benny Hill (Trouble & Squalor)

Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
183.5 x 152.5 cm

 

Referencing the British slapstick comedian and TV entertainer, Benny Hill, the male figure in the painting stands isolated within a stark monochromatic background ? a hallmark of Cullen's fully-evolved acrylic on canvas works. Wearing only a beer-barrel and a pair of boots, the man stares out of the painting directly at us. His piercing red eyes and small black devil horns alert us that it might not be totally appropriate to laugh at his predicament, even though it seems funny at first glance. It is a reminder that comedy ? particularly when delivered fleetingly on TV ? can sugarcoat risqué subject matter in a way that a painting hung in a gallery for prolonged critique never can. Recently, whilst flicking through an old exhibition catalogue, I came across an etching that Cullen made in 1996. The work simply reads: THERE ARE NO PRETTY GIRLS IN FRANCE. This reminded me of a conversation about meaning and interpretation I once had with Adam in which he hilariously dismissed all French philosophy as 'hippy bullshit'. Adam Cullen was laconic, controversial and often funny, but he always cut to the chase.