Victim & Survivor Series


“I use media such as spray cans, use tubes of paint like felt tip pens and scratch at the surface of the canvas to produce layer upon layer of imagery. These combined effects lead the paintings to portray relentless energy to create new meaning, new excitement, new order, a physically disturbed situation that never rests.”

The ‘Victim Series’ first exhibited at Rochdale Art Gallery in 1983 Irene McManus of The Guardian wrote “Duffy dominates this show with his huge Victim series, a sculpture / environment / altar piece of seven paintings as a monument or epitaph” to those who are the victims in society. The centre panel, a 14ft. high crucifix entitled “Victim, no resurrection”was the major work in the series and later exhibited in New York. Studies from the Series were later shown in Cheltenham.


Review by David Lee of Art Review 1984

Terry Duffy as artist in residence awarded a major North West Arts Fellowship to work for four months towards the present exhibition. The time limitation, instead of working against him has served to produce a collection of vivid immediacy, many pictures and sketches featuring the sharp outlines of nimble, dancing figures etched out of the oppressive motes of sprayed-on colours which riot menacingly together, The spontaneity of technique and the necessary speed of execution assists him in the communication of his theme of liberation and stoicism in the face of our society’s restrictive forces and conditions.

” I want the paintings to express the ironies of our existence”, Duffy writes, “‘the human situation’”: strength yet weakness, success yet failure, gain and loss, but above all the human Survivor, along with his or her thoughts, fears, hopes and fantasies”. This is achieved in Bird of Paradise Triptych where the rich, elusive and lyrically resonant image of a bird is worked up into a complex metaphor. The smaller central panel bears the large form of a bird, wings outstretched as if gliding as a bird of prey, based on a child’s drawing of a seagull. Its rectangular shape, only ruptured by a beak- like protuberance, contains traces of a seated figure adumbrated in the gathering atmosphere of conspiracy which threatens to stifle the ambitions of all Duffy’s subjects. It is flanked by large, running figures clutching onto miniature versions of the bird. Read across, the figures’ lurching motion mimics the rhythm of flight.

Room Triptych, another mysterious piece, trawls memories of his parents’ front parlour, the forbidden room opened up only for the benefit of visitors, Red lead walls encroach and contain threateningly, a stark light bulb swings, a tall vase of flowers surmounting an ornamental metal stand is hugged by a naked spectre. In the central panel she lies on the floor glancing aside at the vase framed in the windows; and in the third, she sits up to peer past the vase into the light. Duffy’s painting has reproduced the compelling images of the poet.

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