Aussie contemporary artist you-should-already-know-about-but-maybe-don’t Patricia Piccinini is partway through her most extensive and ambitious exhibition ever at Brisbane‘s Gallery of Modern Art. Patricia Piccinini: Curious Affection is also the largest solo exhibition by an Aussie artist to ever take place at the gallery, reaching into the atrium and occupying the entire ground floor.
It is, in short, absolutely MASSIVE.
Piccinini herself describes her artistic practice super succinctly, in turn summing up the entire, jaw-dropping exhibition:
I am interested in relationships: the relationship between the artificial and the natural, between humans and the environment. The relationships between beings, within families and between strangers. And the relationship between the audience and the artwork.
Patricia Piccinini: Curious Affection is both a retrospective of her work over the last 20 years and a collection of real exciting new works. She’s known for her sculptures of fantastical semi-human creatures which collapse the boundaries between reality and artifice, and often exist within whole environments of other intriguing, hybridised and uncannily realistic figures. The work highlights a very human vulnerability, all while challenging what humanness is – particularly in the wake of advances in biotech and digital technologies.
In Piccinini’s own words, her aim was to literally transform the gallery space: “completely distrupt[ing] the sight-lines of the space, but at the same time insert[ing] a completely new place into it“. She said she loves the contrast of shed with the work itself: “this extraordinary, massive organic object issuing from this very ordinary suburban shed, which is itself out of place in the lofty space of the art museum“.
On top of Pneutopia, Piccinini transformed the 1.1 Gallery into an immersive multisensory environment, with The Field, featuring 3000 genetically modified flower sculptures, which fuse flowers with the Venus of Willendorf, a female figure carved from limestone around 28 000 BCE. The Field hosts a number of Piccinini’s most famous works, including Kindred, a sculpture of an orangutan-like mother and two babies, and The Bond, of a mother and her transgenic baby: one part human, one part pig, one part sports shoe.
The Grotto is a second multisensory environment of hundreds of suspended forms like bats and fungi lining the walls, and the Eagle Egg Men watching over their young like emperor penguins. The space of both The Grotto and The Field becomes a kind of virtual world unto itself, mirroring the free-wheeling possibility of video games and other artificial realities.
A vintage caravan is also parked amidst wildlife inside the exhibition, and plays home to The Couple, two human-bear creatures holding each other closely. Piccinini explains the work:
I imagine that perhaps these are the only two creatures of their kind, and somehow they have found each other, and escaped. Their location within a caravan is very deliberate. A caravan is a space that is almost a house, but temporary – not rooted to one spot. It is domestic but also mobile, compact and cocoon-like. The caravan carries the connotation of disconnection from mainstream life, either nomadic or socially excluded.
If you’re keen to know more – and to have a nosey in the flesh – your best bet is just to buy yourself a ticket to check out the 50-odd works that form Patricia Piccinini: Curious Affection at GOMA, March 24 to August 5, HERE.