The latest exhibition from Queensland College of Art’s Dr Julie Fragar is taking a fine art lens to criminal justice.

Criminal trials are a pop culture obsession with real-life cases capturing mass attention from Netlix’s Making a Murderer to the Serial podcast.

Dr Fragar’s Next Witness is her second body of work following her observation of two criminal trials in the Supreme Court of Queensland between 2016 and 2017.

Creative collaboration

Dr Fragar approached Griffith Law School’s Dr Karen Crawley on a possible collaborative research project after completing her 2017 Trial Paintings: Life Paintings at the Supreme Court of Queensland.

The paintings sparked Dr Crawley’s interest because they were created by someone who wasn’t an active participant in the trial.

“Sitting in the gallery, Dr Fragar was acting as what Sean Mulcahy calls an ‘outside audience’. Within legal theory we don’t really consider the spectator or the role of the audience in criminal proceedings,’ said Dr Crawley.

Dr Crawley has co-authored a journal article with QUT’s Professor Kieran Tranter reflecting on Dr Fragar’s paintings and the ‘artist as witness’ more broadly, in the International Journal for the Semiotics of Law.

Dr Crawley says that artists like Dr Fragar grapple with the ‘horror and inhumanity of trials’.

“Fragar’s paintings take advantage of the medium’s capacity to blend space, time and perspective together on a single plane.”

“She has started to think of the courtroom space more and focus less on the crime story with her latest paintings. She now paints her impression of the players in the theatre, from the victim, to the barristers, the judge and even the media,” said Dr Crawley.

Dr Julie Fragar’s Next Witness exhibition is on display at the Supreme Court Library of Queensland until the 5 September.

Recommended reading

Dr Karen Crawley’s Law Futures Centre blog on Dr Julie Fragar’s paintings – Artist as Witness: Painting a Criminal Trial