My work is about visual perception; it’s a contemporary extension of 1960s Op art into the realm of figuration.

The subjects — portraits and still lifes — are created by closely set dark and light lines. These lines are hand-painted in acrylic or screen printed, with both methods often occurring in one painting. The visual effect of the strongly contrasting lines sets up a subtle illusion of movement when gazed at. This effect suggests the vitality of the human figures as well as the shifting qualities of light falling on them or on still life objects. The illusions of movement (and the phantom colours that are fleetingly present) are symptoms of the brain’s visual system becoming unstable due to conflicting visual stimuli. These optical illusions are not happening out there on the canvas but inside the brain, at the very edge of vision, where perception starts to disintegrate. The sense of transience and dematerialisation is reinforced by the binary line technique used to construct the subject matter: much of the space between the dark lines is the empty ground of the canvas, which effectively makes the subjects only half there. The dark lines read as a screen of parallel filaments through which one peers at the ground and as one does so, the subjects appear to dissolve into pure energy, suggesting what lies beneath solid form. The screens of lines also allude to the gratings used in perceptual psychology and scientific experiments into the physics of light, in which rays are shone through vertical slits in a surface.

Op art introduced the notion of the artwork as an experience rather than an inert object, by foregrounding the act of looking. My paintings similarly invite the viewer to engage with them through prolonged gazing. This focused attention on looking aims to make the viewer self-consciously aware of their own sense of sight, to allow for an investigation into visual perception and to reaffirm the visual in visual art.


Connor Cullinan was born in Pietermaritzburg, where he studied fine art at the University of Kwazulu-Natal. He completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Art at UCT’s Michaelis School of Art in 2011. Cullinan has worked as a lecturer since 2004, teaching visual communication, illustration, surface design, graphic design and drawing at various tertiary institutions in Cape Town.

Cullinan is predominately a painter, but he is also a printmaker and he has integrated screen printing into his painting practice.

Cullinan has been exhibiting in South African galleries since 1991, including at Obert Contemporary, Erdmann Contemporary, Barnard and whatiftheworld. His screen prints have been shown at the FNB Joburg Art Fair, Cape Town Art Fair and Turbine Art Fair by the South African Print Gallery and in Queretaro and Oaxaca (Mexico) by Rust-en-Vrede Gallery. His paintings and prints are in the Nando’s collection (various countries) and in private collections in Europe and the United States.


Post Graduate Diploma in Art

(University of Cape Town, 2011)

Bachelor of Art

(University of KwaZulu-Natal, 1992)

Majoring in Painting and History of Art.

Solo Exhibitions

2019 / 11/11,Daor Contemporary, Cape Town

2009 / Saturnine, Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town

2008 / Carne Vale, Obert Contemporary, Johannesburg

2007 / River of January, Obert Contemporary, Johannesburg

2003 / Brazilian, Gallery 125, London. Cancelled days before the opening, due to the theft of all the works

1997 / Fluid, Mau Mau Gallery, Cape Town

Group Exhibitions

2019 / Urban Archaeology, Daor Contemporary, Cape Town
/ Monochrome, Barnard, Cape Town

2017 / Cape Town Salon, Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town

2016 / The South African Print Gallery, Turbine Art Fair, Johannesburg
/ Rust-en-Vrede Mexican Art Exchange, Queretaro and Oaxaca
/ The South African Print Gallery, That Art Fair

2015 / The South African Print Gallery, Cape Town Art Fair
/ The South African Print Gallery, Turbine Art Fair, Johannesburg

2014 / Oplaag, Aardklop, Potchefstroom
/ The South African Print Gallery, Prince Albert Art Festival, Prince Albert
/ The South African Print Gallery, FNB Joburg Art Fair, Johannesburg
/ The South African Print Gallery, Turbine Art Fair, Johannesburg
/ In Relief, Warren Editions, Cape Town
/ Actuality and Illusions, Erdmann Contemporary, Cape Town

2013 / Make Me an Offer, Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town
/ Parliament, Roeland Street Studios, Cape Town

2012 / Making Faces, Whatiftheworld Gallery, Cape Town

2011 / Graduate Show, Michaelis School of Fine Art, Cape Town

2010 / 15 x 15, Kanon 21, Cape Town
/ Own Goal, Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town

2008 / SASOL New Signatures Competition, Pretoria
/ iArt Summer Show, Cape Town

2004 / For the Record / Off the Record, gordart gallery, Johannesburg

1994 / Whitechapel Open Studios programme, London

1991 / Two person show, Grassroots Gallery, Durban

Client Testimonials

  • The Centre of a Star Of Lines: Connor Cullinan’s ‘11.11’

    It is just over 2 months since DAOR Contemporary opened its doors on Coode Crescent, at the Port of Cape Town. The immediate environment, a stone’s throw away from the Silo District and its glass, steel, and burnished mortar, is a bruised, work-a-day, functional dockland. On entering DAOR, I was struck by a perfect hull in which to exhibit art – time-bitten airy white walls, and a mezzanine from which to run a business… [more]

    Artthrob May 2019
  • River of January, Obert Contemporary

    Cape Town artist Connor Cullinan’s recent ‘River of January’ at Obert Contemporary is proof that a postmodern approach to painting can still yield fruit. Postmodern in the sense of downplaying some the usual mythology around painting, and reducing it to a system for creating images. Cullinan’s explorations of myths and mythologies around sexuality and procreative forces are surprisingly rendered in muted pastel hues, with undeniably chalky surfaces… [more]

    Artthrob March 2007
  • Saturnine, Association for Visual Arts

    Connor Cullinan has titled his new exhibition,Saturnine, alluding to both the sardonic thematic aspects of his work and its technical process, his repetitive use of grids and lines that spiral out like the rings of Saturn. Many recall digital and Photoshop effects - sending a geometric ripple through the plane of a photograph - but each work is precisely made by hand, with a repeated gesture that erases traces of authorship… 

    Mail & Guardian June 2009
  • Wanted March 2007

    Street Journal, SABC March 2007

    itch March 2011

    Art South Africa June 2014 Image Feature 01

    Fiesta, Kyknet DSTV October 2014

    Other Features
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