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Ivan Durrant was born in Melbourne in 1947. He lives and works in Benalla, Victoria. Painter, performance artist, writer, Durrant developed an interest in art while studying economics at Melbourne University.
Outspoken, controversial and unpredictable in his works as in his life, Durrant began in a folksy, naÄŹve style and eventually became a painter of extreme photo-realist accuracy and a sculptor of illusionistic still-lives of butchered meats, pigs heads and all. His first solo exhibition in 1970, at the old Tolarno Galleries in St Kilda, featured pleasing, optimistic farm scenes with a preponderance of cows - recalling his youthful residencies at dairy farms in the Shepparton area. (Durrant's roman a clef, The Insiders, a kind of autobiography of his orphanage days, paints a less bucolic picture of Australian childhood days.)
Cows are the leitmotif of Durrant's career. In 1975 he infamously deposited an abattoir-slaughtered cow on the forecourt of the National Gallery of Victoria as a statement about our failure to confront the reality of killing - or life-taking as he sometimes prefers to call it - in contemporary society in the West.
A few months later, he exhibited what he claimed to be a severed human hand - in fact an eerily convincing sculptural trompe l'oeil - at Hogarth Galleries in Sydney. All hell broke loose in the press. The police became involved and a hunt was instigated for the anonymous medical student who had allegedly sacrificed a limb for art. Something similar happened with his later sculpture of a severed ear. For many years, Durrant's stunning replica of a butchershop window and its grisly wares, a great work of Australian sculpture, was sited ever so wittily near the entrance to the National Gallery of Victoria's elite restaurant.
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