Melbourne, Victoria, Australia born 1947

Five pigs' heads 1978-79
Collection Title: Five Pigs' heads
Place made: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: sculptures, synthetic polymer resin, oil, enamel, perspex, brass

Primary Insc: 3.1982.208.1-5
Dimensions: each 33.0 h x 30.0 w x 26.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Gift of the Philip Morris Arts Grant 1982.
Accession No: NGA 83.1605.A-E
  • In 1975 I had a burning ambition: to take hundreds of viewers to an abattoir to witness cows being killed. That was to be my exhibition.

    Absolute realism seemed the most powerful way of viewing things. I was then, and still am, deeply concerned about the real world around us – our politics and behaviour.

    To view first-hand the slaughter of a cow immediately forces you to be part of the activity of killing. You cannot avoid the connections with the eating of meat and your part in the animal’s destruction. There seems to be something fundamentally understood by us all when we view life-taking first hand. I believe it’s the switch-on key to get us all to feel responsible for our actions from then on.

    The Five pigs’ heads was a way of bringing the abattoir visit to the onlooker in a context that demanded reflection and questioning. The live, almost human, eyes and almost human flesh of the severed pigs’ heads brought the emotional response to the death closer than probably any other animal head would. The glossy, blood-red background emphasised the blood-letting.

    Since the mid-1970s, all my work has dealt with super-real images in an attempt to develop a visual dictionary where I know the viewer cannot avoid seeing exactly what I am talking about. There is no attempt to disguise my images in an acceptable painterly or stylised way. The onlooker has no way out. They cannot hide their emotions under the excuse of ‘it’s only art’. I take great pride when people say my paintings are not art but ‘copied photographs’ and, likewise, my sculpture is ‘just pigs’ heads’.

    Ivan Durrant, 2002

    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