Patricia Piccinini


Eulogy and Skywhale footage

Open Collections Gallery
Mon 3 June - Sun 16 June 2013

Patricia Piccinini creates an imaginative world peopled with families of charming and slightly unsettling, sculpted beings... As Piccinini says, 'In some ways it's an alternative world, made out of the implications of the real one.' [1]

Piccinini's creatures are born of her empathy with the world of living things in environments increasingly under threat from human activity. Ethical issues around genetic engineering and biotechnology compete with emotions engendered by the artist's presentation of her sometimes mutant creatures as vulnerable
and lovable.

I am fascinated by the narrative and ethical repercussions ensuing from our increasingly sophisticated understanding of and interventions into the
structure of life.
- Patricia Piccinini

These works share a sense of wonder and surprise and a poignant humanity. Issues around environmentalism and the degradation of the oceans are the subject matter of Eulogy, wherein a clothed man (who could be a public servant) tenderly holds an ungainly fish, actually a blob fish, which exists in nature - unlike many of Piccinini's creations - and is endangered owing to ocean trawling; the work has a valedictory feeling about it - the careful nurturing of a
dying species.

The strength of one arm 2009 depicts a humanoid creature with flipper-like feet, one of the artist's hybrid child-creatures, which seems to exist in a transitional place somewhere between the land and the sea. He is dressed like a gymnast, balancing artfully on the back of a mountain goat, and the whole scene has the anachronistic atmosphere of an old-fashioned zoo or circus performance, where our sense of wonder is undercut by the clear inequity of the situation. The beauty of the goat and its thick fur is part of the wonder of the moment, yet in this relationship nature performs for us rather than existing on its own terms.

Patricia Piccinini was born in 1965 in Sierra Leone, a country in West Africa, and at the age of seven relocated with her family to Australia. She attended school in Canberra and in 1988 completed a BA (in Economic History) at the Australian National University. Subsequently she undertook a BA in visual art at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne. Since 1992 Piccinini has been included in several hundred group exhibitions in Australia and overseas and dozens of solo exhibitions in Australia and abroad, including representing Australia at the Venice Biennale with We are family in 2003. Her work is held in major public collections in Australia, and in collections in the United States and Belgium. She is one of our most original and thoughtful artists and her work is visually arresting and sensual, whilst also demanding the intellectual engagement of her audience.

[1]Helen McDonald, Patricia Piccinini: Nearly Beloved, Piper Press, 2012, p 11

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