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Australian art

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Mike Parr


1945 -


Mike Parr is an internationally recognised conceptual and performance artist, with a career spanning five decades, who also works in drawing, printmaking, photography, painting, sculpture and installation. KINDNESS IS SO GANGSTER is part of Parr's ongoing 'self-portrait project' series (1982-present) in which he interrogates ideas such as representation over likeness in self-portraiture. The installation is regarded as a continuous performance of ‘blind negative modelling’ in which Parr’s sight is replaced by his other senses, partly as a way of not relying on his ‘educated’ response as a visual artist.

To produce the glass sculptures, Parr was blindfolded and carved the shapes of his face out of 22 individual boxes of clay. Relying on his sense of touch as well as his memory, Parr carved 22 self-portraits out of the clay in the negative. “It was a very physical task, requiring great concentration,” Parr said. “It was very much like the energy I bring to the performances. I didn’t really stop to wonder about what I’d produced. I just took the feeling of modelling, dragging the clay out and creating this sort of vortex … sort of poking forward and feeling like I’d located the features of the face, but never feeling like that was conclusive; so I’d immediately go on to the next one, hauling the clay out again.”1.

The impressions were filled in with plaster to create positive casts and then glass sculptures were made from the casts. Showing incredible detail, these were produced by Richard Whiteley and the glass workshop at the Australian National University School of Art and Design, and Parr handed the entire process over, not wanting to see any of the work taking place until it was completed. Having created them with his hands yet not knowing what they would look like, the glass sculptures came as a surprise to Parr.

A site-specific work, the wall drawing was also produced while blindfolded, with Parr attempting to draw a net of 22 circular shapes, echoing the 22 sculptures. The artist, or a nominated person, would redraw this element in each subsequent iteration of this work. The video component of the work shows a blindfolded Parr directing the placement of the glass sculptures around the gallery space and it is envisioned that in subsequent iterations new videos would be produced recording the placement of the works.

1. Quoted in Andrew Stephens, ‘A shifting of the senses’ in The Age, 5 October 2018




Materials used

22 glass sculptures, two dual channel performance documentation digital videos, wall drawing


display dimensions variable

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


A Sydney Modern acquisition, purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation 2019


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Mike Parr

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history