Synthetic Meat as Art? Don’t Have a Cow Man!

Image: Butcher Shop. (Synthetic polymer and enamel paint on composition board and wood, ceramic tiles, transparent synthetic polymer resin, mirror, steel, fluorescent light, plastic, polyvinyl chloride, metal, string Measurements (a-l) (241.0 × 303.0 × 128.7 cm).

One of seven children, Australian painter, performance artist and writer Ivan Durrant, was born in Melbourne in 1947. His father suffered from alcoholism and his mother was forced to place all of their children into State care. As a consequence Durrant was raised in an orphanage in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton from the age of 7-15.

Durrant discovered a fondness for birds and animals on annual summer vacations; and after leaving school; he worked in a prosthetic laboratory at the Royal Melbourne Hospital; creating lifelike body parts. With these skills, Durrant began to create convincingly accurate sculptures of ears, hands, pig heads and various cuts of meat.

  • Combined with his childlike, folksy, naive art style of drawing and art, he morphed into a self-developed style of super-realism or extreme photorealism which is sometimes referred to as supraphotolism (to work ‘above and beyond the photo’).

As a result, Durrant is known for creating art with “great shock value” including butchered meats and pigs’ heads such as his 26 May, 1975 “Slaughtered Cow Happening“where he  dumped the carcass of a “freshly slaughtered cow” on the forecourt of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). Prior to this, Durrant informed the NGV staff that he was donating a sculpture, and ‘asked whether they would consider leaving it in place for a few days’. This lead to his artistic ‘meat series’ which included:

  • Butcher shop and Pigs Head Exhibition (1978)
  • Meat Paintings (1979) and
  • Photographic Exhibition of Meat (1981)

Durrant now resides in Blairgowrie and his work is held in many public collections.

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