Karen Cullinan


Karen Cullinan, born in 1968, was passionate about art from an early age. During her early career, Karen worked for various design companies, gaining skills in textiles, ceramics and graphic design. Cullinan has completed numerous public commissions nationally and internationally that are characteristically large-scale and made from mixed media. In 1996, she opened her own art company which operated for 24 years, and was successful in the creation of national and international commissioned artworks. In 2020, Karen opened the Artyli Gallery. Karen has been involved in a number of exhibitions and has worked internationally on various collections. Karen has been published in ‘South African Art and Artists’, and she has taught public workshops on abstract painting and authentic creativity. During her career, Karen has successfully worked in the intersecting space of business and art. She currently resides in Johannesburg.


After completing her matric, Karen studied Fine Arts at Wits Technikon (1988), majoring in painting, where she won the Radley and Ashley Best Painters Award  and a bursary award.  In 1994 Karen obtained a certificate from Vall Triangle in Ceramic Technology. In 2013, she returned to the University of Johannesburg (UJ) to complete her BTek Honours in Visual Arts, graduating in 2014. Karen has also completed certificate courses in Graphic Design, as well as being selected and involved with the Goldman Saachs 10 000 Woman mini MBA . 

Subject Matter 

The artworks of Karen Cullinan are phenomenological in nature, as she probes at  time bound subjective human experience that carries philosophical  implications of the human condition, that when deconstructed, could even possibly allude to subtle universal truths. Cullinan’s artistic practice centres varied elements that form at first a complex canvas and secondly offers commentary on a layered ontology that is shaped by time, through time. Cullinan’s artworks serve as a reminder that despite distortion and fragmentation, there is wholeness – capturing the essence of the aphorism that it is within the cracks that there is gold, that there is light that radiates through. As life is a process toward an end, Cullinan reflects on creativity as a guided yet unguided existential egress that grants a closeness to Spirit, to embodied others and to the self. 

Exhibition History 

1988 – Group Exhibition, Wits Tech, Johannesburg

1992 – Group Exhibition, Parktown, Johannesburg

2014 – ‘Some Went Made, Some Ran Away’, group exhibition, Fada Gallery , University of Johannesburg

2015 – “Pulling Roots ” Group Exhibition , Johannesburg

2015 –  “Essence” Group Exhibition, Henry George Gallery, Johannesburg

2016 – “The Storr Room” Group Exhibition, Johannesburg

2020 – Group Exhibition, Hi Hotel, Johannesburg

2020 – Reset – Artyli Gallery, Johannesburg

2020 – Umzanzi Umoyo, Artyli Gallery, Johannesburg

2020 – The Emergence Collection ( online )

2021 – Africonic , Artyli Gallery, Johannesburg

2021 – Captcha Colour , Artyli Gallery, Johannesburg

2023 – Herstory, Artyli Gallery, Johannesburg

Karen Tearnan Cullinan smiling

Original Artwork

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