A walk on the wild side with Mike Parr at the Gallery

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THE National Gallery of Australia takes a walk on the wild side tonight with a provocative new performance titled “Jackson Pollock the Female” by one of Australia’s most ‘unrelentingly experimental’ artists.

Mike Parr Self Portraits through Mother's Glassware 1982, Sydney colour photographs Private Collection
Mike Parr Self Portraits through Mother’s Glassware 1982, Sydney, colour photographs Private Collection

“Mike Parr: Foreign Looking” is the first exhibition to bring together works in all media from Parr’s practice from 1970 to the present and, while it open to the public tomorrow, a sneak preview and the performance were viewed by a select group of art-lovers today.

Tonight’s performance piece obviously looks to the work of “Blue Poles” creator Jack Pollock and indeed Parr has always viewed action-painter Pollock as the father of performance art. He also sees the acquisition of the painting, exhibited in the performance space, as a mark of cultural maturity: a highpoint at which Australia was willing to invest in the arts.

Mike Parr in front of ‘Primitive Gifts,’ 11 April 2006 colour photograph from closed performance.  The Lab Studio, Waterloo, Sydney Private Collection.  Performer: Mike Parr Photographer: Paul Green Photoshop: Felicity Jenkins; Make-up: Chizuko Saito.
Mike Parr in front of ‘Primitive Gifts,’ 11 April 2006 colour photograph from closed performance. The Lab Studio, Waterloo, Sydney Private Collection. Performer: Mike Parr Photographer: Paul Green Photoshop: Felicity Jenkins; Make-up: Chizuko Saito.

Parr first came to prominence in the early 1970s co-establishing Australia’s first artist-run space ‘Inhibodress’ in Woolloomooloo, Sydney. He represented Australia at the Venice Biennale in 1980 and in 2012 the Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna hosted a major survey of his work. His work is motivated by psychoanalytic, philosophical, literary and political interests.

Spanning many newly-created galleries—the smell of fresh plywood permeates the dazzling  exhibition —an installation of performance, film, sculpture, drawing, printmaking and photography.

The show presents works never previously seen, including the suite of distorted portrait photographs ‘Self Portraits through Mother’s Glassware’ and a theatrette program devoted to Parr’s work as an avant-garde filmmaker.

An information centre (more plywood) will also occupy a space inside the exhibition, allowing visitors to delve into the artist’s vast archive and meet writers, artists and performance artists as part of a revolving program of public events and activities inspired by Parr’s works.

Parr himself will undertake a number of performances in the space including “Reading for the End of Time”, based on Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida.

“Mike Parr: Foreign Looking,” NGA, August 12 to November 6. Entry is free.

 

 

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