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Australian art

Contemporary art

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Bronze liars (minus 1 to minus 16)



Mike Parr


1945 -


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.




Media category


Materials used

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.


Purchased 1996


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Mike Parr

Works in the collection


Shown in 5 exhibitions

Exhibition history

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. 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,