Finalist in Sulman Art Prize 2007 – Art Gallery NSW

Portrait by Victor Gordon

“Mike Parr at the MCA”

Mike Parr is one of Australia’s most important contemporary artists. He is a performance artist with a strong interest in self portraiture/ self imaging.

As a portrait; the painting is unusual. The striking oblique rear view and compositional economy are accentuated by the strong diagonal emanating from the bottom left hand corner, drawing the view’s attention to the centrally located image. Viewed from this angle, Mike Parr conveys a sense of quiet reflection; a mixture of both modesty and substance in the way he is positioned, at once casual yet clearly important, locates him firmly within the structure of contemporary art.

A balance is suggested by the shift from cool grey blues at the left to warmer tones on the right of the painting. This balance is further enhanced by the angles created between the image of Mike Parr leaning heavily into the wall, and the wall itself, which provides a counterweight by angling back towards him, slightly off the perpendicular.

The fugitive moving female presence in the background, while superficially appearing to be incidental, functions as his alter ego and refers to the intense, deeply psychological aspects of Mike Parr’s own art.

That Mike Parr has only one arm, a physical absence that lies at the locus of his artistic concerns, is referenced only obliquely by omission in the painting.

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