Australia, born 1965
silicon, fibreglass, human hair, clothing
110.0 x 65.0 x 60.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney,
Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, and Haunch of Venison,New York
‘Once upon a time’, one of the largest and most comprehensive exhibitions of Patricia Piccinini’s works to ever be staged is currently showing at the Art Gallery of South Australia from 16 April to 26 June.
Piccinini is known for her intriguing and sometimes controversial life-sized sculptures of grotesquely lovable hybrid creatures. The exhibition however, also includes photographs, drawings and installations that have been brought together to reflect the overarching themes of Piccinini’s career. What does it mean to be human in a world of genetic manipulation, and how will we interact with the creations of our evolving technologies? Are we blurring the boundaries between humans, animals and machines? And what does that mean?
The exhibition includes more 80 works spanning her 15-year career to date, including the anthropomorphised motor scooters in The Stags
, the sleeping child resting with a genetically-modified dugong-like creature in The Long Awaited
and the gallery’s own Big Mother,
a Neanderthal-like primate suckling a human baby that stands 1.75 m high, made from silicon, fibreglass, leather and human hair.
There are also three new works created especially for the exhibition. ‘The Lovers’
a sculpture of two slug-like motor scooters snuggling, continues Piccinini’s exploration of how the machine, by developing behaviour we usually associate with animals, may be on its way to becoming a sentient and autonomous being, says the exhibition’s curator, Jane Messenger.
‘In contrast, Piccinini has moved into uncharted territory with her poignant new sculpture, Eulogy
, Ms Messenger says. ‘This sculpture of a miserable-looking creature cradled in a man’s hands appears to be another of Piccinini’s fantastical creatures, but it actually already exists in nature’.
‘It is the highly evolved Blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus), which inhabits the deep waters off mainland Australia and Tasmania. It is sadly facing extinction due to deep-sea trawler fishing’.
‘This work not only demonstrates the wonder and diversity of our natural world, but also highlights how, compared to that world, Piccinini’s sculptures of imaginary creatures are not really so sensational or incredible’.
Running through all of Piccinini’s works of art is a strong thread of hope – for humanity and our capacity for empathy. As Piccinini says: ‘My work is about relationships – relationships between humans and animals, humans and machines and humans and the environment’.
‘I am interested in the opportunities for care and responsibility that new technologies present us with’, she says. ‘Fundamentally my work is about how the definitions of what we consider natural and what we consider artificial are moving.Patricia Piccinini
was born in Sierra Leone in 1965 and arrived in Australia in 1972. She has a Bachelor of Arts (History) from the Australian National University, then went on to do another Bachelor in Painting at the Victorian College of the Arts. Piccinini is one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists. She represented Australia at the 2003 Venice Biennale and has earned an impressive international reputation. In the last 12 months alone she has exhibited in Tokyo, New York, Berlin, The Netherlands and around Australia, including the Art Gallery of West Australia
. Her works are represented in major Australian public collections as well as collections (public, private and corporate) in the United States and Europe.
The Art Gallery of South Australia is staging a variety of events for children and adults themed on Piccinini’s works. The Lab is an interactive activity space where children from age five up can create their own fantastical creatures inspired by the exhibition, using a range of materials and techniques with activities changing weekly. Secondary school kids can take it a step further with special computer animation workshops where they can model their bio-tech creatures. For grown ups, there will be a special 2 day forensic workshop on 3D facial reconstruction and drawing workshops introducing participants to head and facial anatomy and how to accurately sketch them.
On Saturday 14 May at 12 noon there will be the opportunity to ‘Meet the artist’ with Patricia Piccinini speaking directly about her works. There will also be a series of free public lectures using Piccinini’s works as the jumping off point for exploring philosophy, ethics and scientific questions.
The accessibility of Piccinini’s works makes this exhibition particularly appealing to a broad public audience. Yet the range of the works on display will surprise many visitors, Art Gallery of South Australia Director, Nick Mitzevich said. ‘Together, they create an alternate, unsettling reality that visitors of all ages and backgrounds can get lost in – and then come out the other side with a new perspective on their own reality, and about how they want the future of that reality to look.’
ONCE UPON A TIME – Patricia Piccinini
Art Gallery of South Australia
16 April – 26 June 2011
For further details on the exhibition and on school holiday activities and other programs see the ArtsHub event listing or go to the Art Gallery of South Australia website.