“Visual images do not merely replace words but do things that words cannot do.” – Ivan Durrant
Ivan Durrant, a leading exponent of photorealism, and natural raconteur, will be celebrated in a major survey paying tribute to five decades of his extraordinarily diverse career since the 1970s, at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia from 1 May 2020.
Ivan Durrant: Barrier Draw is the most comprehensive survey of Durrant’s work to date. Featuring over 100 multi-disciplinary works from the Melbourne-born artist, the exhibition will also unveil a new larger-than-life sculpture inspired by his controversial back catalogue. Drawn extensively from Durrant’s personal collection, the exhibition also includes major works from public and private collections from across Australia.
‘A prolific artist and provocateur, Ivan Durrant has created one of the most audacious bodies of work in Australian art,’ said Tony Ellwood AM, Director, NGV. ‘With his work first exhibited at the NGV in 1979, we’re delighted to welcome Ivan back to pay tribute to his extensive career and provide a platform to unveil an unmissable new work.’
The exhibition chronicles the evolution of Durrant’s diverse career, including his earliest folk paintings depicting an idyllic childhood in the countryside, which were a sharp contrast to his own experiences having grown up in an orphanage; his realist paintings, short films and sculptures of the 1970s and 80s, including his race track and movie star series; politically motivated installation works including Butcher Shop 1977/78, held in the NGV Collection; and more recent evocative ‘soft-focus’ paintings of the 1990s and 2000s.
A large proportion of Durrant’s later works employ a technique the artist refers to as ‘supraphotorealism’ – an abstract-like technique which mimics an out-of-focus photograph through the use of vibrant colours, softened edges and select focus, extending beyond the traditional parameters of photorealism.
Inspired by the deliberate intention to shock, Durrant first achieved public notoriety in 1975 when he deposited the carcass of a cow in the NGV forecourt. Soon after, media began referring to him as the ‘enfant terrible of Australian art’. Struck by the apparent double standard whereby people could buy, cook and eat meat but could not acknowledge where it came from, Durrant hoped to highlight the hypocrisy of killing an animal for human consumption.
The artistic context for Durrant’s work in the 1970s related to the distinguishing shift in Australian art with a new generation of artists beginning to explore socio-political issues and experiment with artistic mediums and techniques. Durrant was inspired by the potency of performance art and its ability to make a statement and elicit emotional responses in an unconventional way. Durrant also harnessed the power of the media to promote his work on a broader scale outside the traditional confines of the gallery space.
In ‘The Severed Hand Happening 1975’, Durrant generated the perfect media storm when he drew on his skills working in a prosthetics laboratory at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and exhibited what appeared to be a severed human hand. Coming under police investigation, he revealed the hand was actually an intricately detailed resin sculpture.
Ivan Durrant: Barrier Draw includes a mini-documentary featuring an exclusive interview with the artist. The film will be exhibited alongside newspaper archives contextualising the Australian media’s response to Durrant’s most notorious works and the artist’s enduring fascination with playing the role of the larrikin.
The NGV will publish an exhibition catalogue featuring contributions by Australian playwright and actor Barry Dickins, writer and curator Rodney James, and NGV exhibition curator David Hurlston.
Ivan Durrant: Barrier Draw will be on display at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia from 1 May to 25 October 2020. Free entry. Further information is available via the NGV website.