Elevating the mundane

Headless Chicken, 1995, gelatin silver print, Peter Peryer (1941-2018); Jim Barr and Mary Barr...
Headless Chicken, 1995, gelatin silver print, Peter Peryer (1941-2018); Jim Barr and Mary Barr loan collection, Dunedin Art Gallery.
The exhibition World View, presently on display on the ground floor of Dunedin Public Art Gallery, takes a tour through time and place using works from the gallery's permanent collection.

Sitting somewhat incongruously among works from the Italian Renaissance, British modernism and Edo period Japan, is Headless Chicken (1995) - a modestly scaled black and white photograph of a raw chicken, laid simply against a bare background.

Headless Chicken is a work by New Zealand photographer Peter Peryer and is at Dunedin Public Art Gallery as part of a long-term loan of contemporary art works from the personal collection of philanthropists Jim Barr and Mary Barr.

Like so many of Peryer's works, Headless Chicken captures an aspect of the everyday environment and presents it to the audience anew.

A visually arresting image, the plucked chicken, with its sense of nakedness, brings to mind a feeling of vulnerability or exposure.

At the same time, Headless Chicken captures Peryer's sense of comedic timing, elevating the mundane into territory that hovers been the absurd and the sublime.

Peryer, who died in November 2018, has been celebrated for his unique contribution to contemporary photography in Aotearoa.

The 48 works by Peryer held in the Dunedin Public Art Gallery collection represent an important part of the gallery's collection.

Lucy Hammonds is a curator at Dunedin Public Art Gallery.


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