Mike Parr, in a long, white gown and seated before an audience, had blood drawn from his veins on the right side of his arm. Parr then lay on the floor of Australia’s National Gallery beneath Pollock’s Blue Poles before Linda Jefferys, a collaborator artist, painted the blood all over his body using the famous drip-painting method of Pollock.
Then, he remained still and silent, like a screen on which we can project our unconscious images. Parr’s latest performance piece was Jackson Pollock, the Female.
This simple act is a complex one. Parr personalizes the artwork by using his body, which is an essential feature of performance arts. He makes his body supine and passive, vulnerably vulnerable.
Jackson Pollock, the female by Mike Parr Supplied
Clement Greenberg, in contrast to Pollock, praised his “cowboy style” of masculine American masculinity.
In the immediate years following World War II, Pollock’s explosive and cathartic style of painting caught the attention of the art world. It was only in 1973 that the National Art Gallery acquired his work for a price record of $1m.
Parr by performing his action in front of Blue Poles and returning the famous image to the moment it was created in Pollock’s action painting method.
The process of creating the artwork is the focus of action painting. This involves the artist dripping, flicking, and smearing paint on a surface or violently throwing it.
Hans Namuth captured these gestures in his famous movie of Pollock from 1950, which some scholars attribute to the birth of performance art.
In the films, Pollock paints outside his home with the canvas laid out horizontally on the ground instead of vertically to receive more paint. Parr wanted his lying down on the ground to bring attention to the “horizontality” of Pollock’s work. The films focused on Pollock’s almost ritualistic behavior.
Parr reminds his audience that the origins of one of the Gallery’s most famous and expensive images are these trancelike moments of action paintings. He’s almost warning us not to lose sight of the contingency of paintings and their physical labor. Parr also draws attention to a fundamental aspect of his work: his artistic approach.
Parr, like Pollock, creates his work during intense periods, in search of an altered state. He is looking for moments where he can escape from the everyday and to break free of habits of perception.
Jackson Pollock The Female by Mike Parr Supplied
Parr imagined “draining a body of blood” for his opening night’s action. Parr was able to extract enough blood that night for a large amount of paint. He also felt on the edge of fainting. In this moment, the mechanical forces of the body override the rational and egoistic functions of the animal.
This is a source of inspiration for many artists.
Parr’s search for authenticity is evident in other works on display. We see Parr’s extreme states in video and photography. He is always attentive to the frame and the context of the work.
Parr is well aware of the works of his peers in the experimental art movement around the globe, including Pollock. Parr’s oeuvre, with its vigorous engagement in image-making that is nothing less than transformational, now sits beside it, both literally and figuratively. Parr’s photographs have transformed the way that we view forms like etchings by unleashing their force on the viewer.
Parr has had a long and storied career. His performance art, like Blue Poles, has always been a source of controversy in Australia. Parr’s prints, sculptures, and photographs can be found in most of the major Australian art collections. They are also increasingly being acquired by international collections like the Tate Modern.
Mike Parr, in his early 20s, began creating art during the 1960s. He typed on paper and created intricate patterns that corresponded to the meanings of the words. The artist’s only arm made it difficult to use a typewriter.
Parr began to focus on written instructions and began performing his instructions at the Inhibodress Gallery in Sydney, which he founded in 1971. The media picked up Parr’s radical experiments, and he quickly gained a reputation for being a maverick who would not compromise.
In the 1970s, he refined his approach to art both in Australia and abroad as the first wave of performance art swept the international art scene.
National Gallery of Victoria
Parr’s performance art, which is the core of his practice, has not been embraced by major art institutions. It is therefore important that the Gallery chose an opening night performance to celebrate the career of Australia’s most significant experiment artist.
Parr is silent and still in the video version of Jackson Pollock’s, The Female. The image is both respectful as well as suggestive of a visual joke about the “action-painting” craze. He is a man and woman, wearing white clothing with heavy makeup.
It is the opposite of the macho image of Pollock, who was celebrated as the art media’s first star in the late 20th Century. This is the other side to this male artist media fantasy.
Mike Parr’s reimagining Pollock, which was part homage, part sabotage, and a provocative and critical gesture, was the start of his Mike Parr Foreign Looking exhibition. It is a good example of Parr’s general work, as this exhibition shows.