Foyer Art: Adam Cullen


As part of our season of The Boys by Gordon Graham, three paintings by Adam Cullen are on display in the Griffin foyer. They were originally part of the ‘Anita and Beyond’ exhibition at the Penrith Regional Gallery in 2003.

The portraits depict the Murphy Brothers;  Les, Michael and Gary, who are  three of the five men convicted of the murder of Anita Cobby in 1986.

Here Adam explains his reason for painting the portraits.

‘Everybody involved in the Anita Cobby case lost. There were no winners. I feel for Anita, a woman who was horrifically raped and murdered. It was a disgusting crime.

I also feel sorry for the perpetrators – no one chooses to be poor, ignorant and abused. No one chooses to endure a horrible existence incarcerated and described by the media as ‘evil’.

Things are more complex than the single issue of rape and murder and associated crimes against women – especially when art is involved.
I’ve painted the killers of Anita Cobby because, as with all my work, I’m responding to information – information on all levels, televisual and printed media. This is why the killers are of legitimate interest. In no way is my focus ignoring the plight of the victim. But to ignore the five convicted is to disregard the source of the problem. Painting deals with problems. Art isn’t about shutting down dialogue – art is about opening dialogue up, even when it’s messy and distasteful.

I view the world with a measure of suspicion and pity. The subjects and content of my visual language deal with the issues of every ‘whitenoise’. Unfortunately, most of this ‘whitenoise’ is ultimately black.

A lot of killers have been painted throughout history. These five portraits have more to do with courtroom sketching, criminal profiling, religious icons of saints and historical documentation in general, amongst other examples.

I would like to see Anita’s absence as a subject within these paintings as a mark of respect, rather than glorifying the murders.
Art is about Art.’

Adam Cullen from ‘Anita and Beyond’, Penrith Regional Gallery, 2003.

The portraits are on display in the Griffin foyer until 3 March, courtesy of Michael Reid.