Paul Cullen


11 August 2007 - 7 October 2007

'Falsework' is the name given to the temporary structures that support bridges and other structures while they are under construction. Once the structure is complete, the falsework is removed. In his project for Dunedin Public Art Gallery, sculptor Paul Cullen assembles some pieces of 'falsework' in which practical functions are replaced by other possibilities.

The objects Cullen has upturned and pinned to the ceiling are all drawn from the domestic realm – a battered cupboard, an old chair, a low coffee table, some shelves. This contributes a dream-like tone, as if a living room full of objects has been turned upside down by an unknown force. At the same time, the profusion of screws, joints and constructed elements suggests a firm sense of purpose, as if an inventor or tinkerer has gone to great lengths to trial an invention or test a hypothesis.

Like many contemporary artists, Cullen could be described as a maker of models whose exact purpose is left to we viewers to imagine. In the catalogue for the exhibition, writer Allan Smith points to one of the sources for Cullen’s structures, in the working model of the solar system that eighteenth-century Dutch astronomer Eise Eisinga built in his living room. Cullen brings together world globes and homely objects in arrangements that hint at connections between the cosmic and the everyday.

In the process, he inverts some common expectations about how sculptures are displayed. In the exhibition space next to this one, for instance, you can see a carved sculptural bust supported, as sculptures traditionally are, by a plinth. But in Cullen’s work, the sculptures themselves have become props or plinths, sustaining a world turned upside down.

A Dunedin Public Art Gallery exhibition.

Paul Cullen was born in Te Awamutu in 1949. He attended the University of Auckland and graduated with a B.Sc. in 1971 and then went on to study Fine Arts. He has exhibited widely in New Zealand and internationally, and his solo exhibitions include The Orange Theory, Te Tuhi, The Mark, Pakuranga, Auckland, 2005, and Proposal for an unrelated site, Christchurch Art Gallery, 2004. He Lectures at Manukau School of Visual Arts, Manukau Institute of Technology.

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