The Courier-Mail - QWeekend

Portrait of the doomed artist

Known for his contentiou­s, confrontin­g art, these bold works are pure Adam Cullen

- Story PHIL BROWN Adam Cullen, until March 6, Mitchell Fine Art, 86 Arthur Street, Fortitude Valley mitchellfi­neartgalle­ry.com

When Brisbane gallery director Mike Mitchell first took on artist Adam Cullen it was something of a coup. Mitchell, who runs Mitchell Fine Art in Fortitude Valley with wife Sharon, was living in Darwin at the time. His Muk Muk Fine Art was based in Darwin and Alice Springs. When Mitchell began representi­ng Cullen the artist was a rising superstar.

His Archibald Prize-winning portrait of actor David Wenham catapulted him into the broader public eye and his colourful, if at times grotesque, acrylic paintings captured people’s imaginatio­ns. Mitchell was keen to have him although their working relationsh­ip only lasted a couple of years because Cullen, plagued by health and substance abuse issues, died tragically at the age of 47 in 2012.

Now Mitchell Fine Art is paying tribute to Cullen with a rare exhibition of his work. With paintings between about $1800 to as much as $85,000, it’s a national event, a museum class exhibition of work that Mike Mitchell has kept for this survey show.

“I could have sold all these works easily years ago but I wanted to have this exhibition showing a broad crosssecti­on of his work,” Mitchell says.

“We represente­d Adam and I acquired a lot of work myself. He was an amazing artist and the style is unmistakea­ble.”

Before his death, Cullen had a major retrospect­ive at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) and as an ongoing tribute to him the Art Series of hotels dedicated The Cullen Melbourne to his work.

His work was colourful, sometimes beautiful, often challengin­g, as former director of the AGNSW, the late Edmund Capon, once pointed out.

“Cullen is culling the deep recesses of our own psyche and throwing out the trash on our own behalf while forever pointing the finger at hypocrisy and dubious premise.”

Cullen was controvers­ial from the start and was deemed an enfant terrible after chaining a pig’s head to his ankle during his art school days. He wore the head for weeks as it deteriorat­ed. Quite the metaphor.

His work combined an irreverent humour and an astute reading of the human condition. He was fearless, and polarised critics. His life, work and foibles were laid bare in Erik Jensen’s 2015 biography Acute Misfortune: The Life and Death of Adam Cullen, which was the basis of the 2019 film Acute

Misfortune. Mike Mitchell remembers him fondly. “He had this reputation but I found him to be a really good person,” Mitchell says. “Beneath it all he was a gentle soul.”

A gentle soul who toyed with guns and self destructio­n. When Cullen visited Darwin for an exhibition, Mitchell remembers organising a hunting trip for him. Cullen loved guns.

“He asked if he could go hunting so I lined it up with some profession­al hunters. They went pig shooting and Adam loved it.” Mitchell also visited Cullen at his studio in the Blue Mountains and wrote a book about him, which is on sale at the gallery.

The exhibition is stunning with the hero work being Cullen’s tough but colourful painting Boxers. Fascinatin­g stuff from an artist who burned brightly but was gone far too soon.

Being a Beatles fan is a lifelong devotion. I know many of you will agree with that and share my love of the Fab Four. And, like me, you may be heading to QPAC soon to see the show The Beatles 50 Years On featuring the Aussie tribute band The Beatle Boys.

They play Brisbane on February 18 and Cairns the following day. The Beatle Boys are John Kater as Paul, Matt Breen as John, Rodney Auld as George and Michael Carpenter as Ringo.

I haven’t seen these guys yet but I hear they are brilliant. Aussie rock guru and Beatles author Glenn A. Baker reckons they are the real deal and that should be good enough for all of us.

Their show features everything from the early material to the later stuff. They cover the years from 1962 to late 1969 and sing all the No.1 hits. Of course 1969 is the cut-off because that’s when The Beatles broke up. I can remember that incident as a deep childhood trauma, one I am still getting over.

The Beatle Boys have performed all over the world. The love of The Beatles is a global phenomenon and shows no sign of slowing anytime soon.

Because of people like you … and me. I was a Beatles tragic from around the age of seven. We were living in Hong Kong when I was converted to their music. I had a small transistor radio which I was glued to every time a Beatles song came on. Later I got a little record player for my room and my years in Hong Kong (from the age of six until 13) were marked by the release of various Beatles albums. When Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band came out in 1967 it was like the Second Coming. We came back to Australia just as they were breaking up.

In Hong Kong I was in a little pop band myself called The Sidetracks, fleetingly, and we all wore Beatles boots (all the rage at the time) and we brushed our hair down in the moptop style.

I loved all four Beatles but John was very much my favourite. It wasn’t until

my mid teens that I realised we shared a birthday, October 9.

I still listen to John Lennon most weeks and in recent days I have been playing the classic John and Yoko album Double Fantasy in the car. Losing John was another trauma in my life and in the lives of millions of others and it still hurts.

Because just as he was getting it all together he was gone. So sad.

I know there are debates about who is better – The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. I happen to love both but there is no comparison. The Stones are terrific but The Beatles have more reach. They covered so many genres and themes. I mean just listen to the White Album (The Beatles is the official name but we all call it the White Album) for variety. It has everything from music hall to folk ballads to heavy rock’n’roll and there are surrealist and avant-garde elements.

I love The Beatles in their solo careers too. Hell, I even like Paul McCartney and Wings! George became so soulful and spiritual and even Ringo has kicked on with his own solo career although I actually don’t have any of his albums. I have all The Beatles albums and many of the solo albums by the other three and I think Paul’s first solo album, McCartney, is still his best. And he’s still going!

There wouldn’t be a week when I’m not playing something by The Beatles, together or separately. Their songs form the soundtrack of my life. Yours, too?

Magnum Luxe Gold Caramelise­d Chocolate

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Everyone’s favourite childhood ice cream has been turned into a chocolate with the new Neapolitan block from Cadbury. It features Dairy Milk chocolate layered with Dream white chocolate and strawberry flavoured chocolate. Limited edition.
Ice cream has been given the Midas touch with this new range from Magnum. They’re available as 440ml tubs featuring biscuit flavoured ice cream with toffee cinnamon sauce and shortbread pieces in a crackling caramelise­d chocolate shell. At Woolworths ($9). Everyone’s favourite childhood ice cream has been turned into a chocolate with the new Neapolitan block from Cadbury. It features Dairy Milk chocolate layered with Dream white chocolate and strawberry flavoured chocolate. Limited edition.

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