These life sized self-portraits were Parr's first sortie into figurative sculpture. The first of them were tentative in feel but he quickly gained confidence to achieve striking likenesses. As he progressed he heightened the expressive quality to a mask like intensity and finally some of the likenesses were subjected to destructive gestures as if the material were being forged on an anvil. The likeness is reduced to abstract form.
The sequence in some ways reflects his approach to self-portraits in printmaking. The process of the form becoming and simultaneously being destroyed is constantly in tension in the material manipulation of the work. Parr modelled the pieces from the front but the absent image of the back of his head he moulded blind. The backs are by no means mute, they are as expressive as the fronts but the are formed by groping in the dark this approach bears some relationship to the dual aspects of his big drawings from the mid 1980s. In these the left side is anamorphic drawings distorted scientifically while the right hand side is expressive and employs haptic gestures. This dichotomy played out the functions of the conscious and unconscious mind or the functions of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The bronze heads are raised up on plinths of beeswax. The cold metal of the heads suggests cold reason while the warm wax implies the body and material processes.
16 bronze and beeswax sculptures
dimensions variable :
a - 1, 123 x 40.4 x 40.5 cm
b - 2, 122.5 x 40.3 x 40.3 cm
c - 3, 111 x 40 x 40 cm
d - 4, 122 x 40 x 40 cm
e - 5, 183.5 x 40 x 40 cm
f - 6, 187.5 x 40 x 40 cm
g - 7, 178 x 40 x 40 cm
h - 8, 194.5 x 59 x 40 cm
i - 9, 142 x 54 x 40.5 cm
j - 10, 180.5 x 40 x 40 cm
k - 11, 176.5 x 40 x 560 cm
l - 12, 178 x 40 x 56 cm
m - 13, 178 x 40 x 40 cm
n - 14, 176 x 40 x 54 cm
o - 15, 176.5 x 40 x 40 cm
p - 16, 194.5 x 40 x 40 cm
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Not on display
© Mike Parr
Shown in 5 exhibitions
Bronze Liars (Minus 1 to Minus 16), Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne, Melbourne, Oct 1996–Oct 1996
Presence and absence: portrait sculpture in Australia, National Portrait Gallery [Old Parliament House], Canberra, 22 Aug 2003–16 Nov 2003
cut your throat an inch at a time: a survey of the works of Mike Parr 1970 - 2005, Newcastle Art Gallery, Newcastle, 01 Oct 2005–20 Nov 2005
Mike Parr, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart, 21 Nov 2008–01 Mar 2009
Foreign Looking: Mike Parr 1970 - 2016, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 12 Aug 2016–06 Nov 2016
Referenced in 8 publications
Anthony Bond, Contemporary: Art Gallery of New South Wales Contemporary Collection, 'Imagining the body', pg.246-289, Sydney, 2006, 282, 283 (colour illus.).
Laura Murray Cree, State of the arts, 'The new face of portraiture', pg. 63-64, Sydney, Jul 2003-Sep 2003, 63 (colour illus.).
James Drinkwater, Look, 'The art that made me', Sydney, Sep 2018-Oct 2018, 23 (colour illus.).
Deborah Edwards, Look, 'Portrait sculpture: simultaneously the most artificial and the most "real"', pg. 29-31, Sydney, Sep 2003, 31.
Deborah Edwards, Presence & absence: portrait sculpture in Australia, Canberra, 2003, 70 (colour illus.), 71, 74, 84. cat.no. 67
Donna Hinton, Look, ‘To restore or leave alone? Changing views and requirements in art museum conservation’, pg. 14-16, Sydney, Apr 2012, 15, 16 (colour illus.).
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, Sydney, 1999, 181 (colour illus.). illustration is a detail
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Mike Parr: The Tilted Stage, 2008, (colour illus.). TMAG, cat.no.11