I have now reached the point where large drawings on paper are being produced in tandem with large drypoints and etchings. Energy and ideas are continually flowing between one medium and the other. Across the paper I work at great speed, which facilitates a particular kind of resolution as well as a particular kind of content.
Drypoints are made directly onto metal plates with a carborundum-tipped stylus or a diamond point for fine work. The line cut into the copper raises a burr and it is the burr (rather than the groove, as in etching) that carries the ink. I also use other tools such as an angle grinder, sandpaper, nails and old wood chisels for cutting and scumbling the surface of the metal plate.
In contrast to the mobility of the work on paper, copper or zinc plates are a mass of resistance. The key, though, is to understand how this extreme contrast facilitates my work, because I find the difficulty of ‘seeing’ the image to be particularly stimulating, as accurate contours in the mind are defeated by the process of drypoint drawing. Lines continually skid into one another, agglutinate and form patches of graphic turbulence and the surface becomes greasy, opaque. The sheer physicality of the process and the characteristic ‘damage’ of the drypoint lines and, in the large works, the overdrawing across images and plates, are also all in direct contrast to work on paper. It is as though at every instant I am breaking down my facility as a draftsman.
What I am really talking about is the meaning of difficulty, how images are formed, what is left out in the process and how ‘skill’ glosses over or conceals the artist’s understanding of his own work.
Mike Parr, 1990.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002