Meet the weird, wonderful & curious creatures
as Piccinini explores wonder, ambiguity, fertility & relationships
I was in Brisbane recently for a couple of photography jobs, and catching up with my dear friend Terri. We took ourselves off to the Patricia Piccinini Curious Affection Exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art.
Patricia Piccinini is billed as one of the world’s most popular contemporary artists. It is the largest solo exhibition by an Australian artist for the Gallery of Modern Art, and Piccinini’s most ambitious to date, where she explores wonder, ambiguity, fertility and relationships. We were eager to see what all the fuss was about with our own eyes.
The thought-provoking exhibition plays out on a grand scale over the entire ground floor of GOMA. With over 50 pieces, including a retrospective of the artist’s most recognisable lifelike sculptures, drawings and videos, as well as new work created for the Gallery of Modern Art. The new work for the exhibition includes a large-scale suspended inflatable sculpture in GOMA’s atrium that you can immerse yourself in.
From the first gallery that audiences enter, there is this idea of innocence and acceptance in the unknown – a “curious affection” that builds across this exhibition and incrementally stepped through Piccinini’s 30-year career.
“Patricia Piccinini’s fantastic hybrid beings invite us to find beauty
in a world not ruled by notions of perfection.”
Chris Saines, QAGOMA Director, explains the exhibition : “Piccinini explores the interrelationship of humanity and the natural world, and the social and moral impact of scientific research, genetics and biotechnology on people, animals and our planet.” The artist worked with a skilled team of collaborators and used computer technology to help create the art, some of which is rather bizarre in nature, with hybridised forms and weirdly realistic sculptures.
The work was created to make you feel uncomfortable, and that you do.
Let’s take a look inside the Patricia Piccinini Curious Affection Exhibition
And of course I took a few photos as we wandered through the exhibition space, curious and intrigued about how the artist’s mind came up with the ideas for these imaginative creatures. I can’t say I came away enlightened or understood what it was all about, and a bit of Googling has helped me write this post. It still was enjoyable to wander through GOMA for a couple of hours taking in this and letting the imagination run wild.
“Patricia Piccinini’s sculptures are deeply disquieting. Walking through Curious Affection, her new solo exhibition at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art, is akin to entering a science laboratory full of DNA experiments. Made from silicone, fiberglass and even human hair, her sculptures are breathtakingly lifelike, however, we can’t be sure what life they are like. The artist creates an exuberant parallel universe where transgenic experiments flourish and human evolution has given way to genetic engineering and DNA splicing.”
Curious Affection greets you with this little creature.
The first gallery has you walking through works largely from the past 15 years of Patricia Piccinini’s work.
Unfurled, 2016 – Photograph Deb Boots
The Coup, 2012 – Photograph Deb Boots
First impressions of Doubting Thomas and Big Mother, set a tone of curiosity, nurturing and respect. But there is still a separation between human and hybrid. In Doubting Thomas the child probes the hairy amorphous creature.
Big Mother standing at 1.7m high, seems in service of the child, exploited as a wet nurse. Piccinini says the work was inspired by the story of a baboon whose infant died while she was nursing and who then abducted a human child as a substitute.
Doubting Thomas, 2008 – Photograph Deb Boots
Big Mother, 2005 – Photograph Deb Boots
Laura, 2005 – Photograph Deb Boots
In The Welcome Guest a child and a creature play on a bed, eyes locked in joyous emotion, oblivious to an exotic peacock that stands guard. It gives the sense as if they were woken from a dream or night time play. This sculpture sits beautifully alongside Balasana (a girl in a child’s yoga position with a kangaroo on her back in perfect balance) and The Gathering (where a sleeping child is surrounded by Piccinini’s animated creatures) that play off the vulnerability of sleep and encounter, asking the questions – Should we be afraid? Should we fear for the child?
The Welcome Guest, 2011 – Photograph Deb Boots
Below is the sculpture The Young Family which announced Patricia Piccinini to the world stage.
The Young Family, 2002 – Photograph Deb Boots
Balasana, 2009 – Photograph Deb Boots
As we move into the next gallery space, the tone shifts slightly as the artist ventures into ideas of
IVF, of the wild, of wilderness and mythology with the Sphinx and Atlas sculptures.
In complete contrast, Bodyguard (Golden Helmeted Honeyeater) and
The Stags, where two duelling motorbike mirrors and car fenders turn into a pair of stags claiming their territory.
Atlas, 2012 – Photograph Deb Boots
Bodyguard, 2004 – Photograph Deb Boots
The Stags, 2008 – Photograph Deb Boots
A Deeply Held Breath, 2009 – Photograph Deb Boots
Left : Metaflora (Twin Rivers Mouth), 2015 / Right : Metaflora (Stone Mountain), 2015 – Photograph Deb Boots
Ghost, 2012 – Photograph Deb Boots
Bottom Feeder, 2009 – Photograph Deb Boots
Prone, 2011 – Photograph Deb Boots
This larger than life-size dignified creature is intimidating for its sheer size, but embodies tenderness and a gentle giant in service to the week and elderly figure and powerful gaze. There is a calm and a connection between human and hybrid that offers a utopian guidebook for acceptance.
The Carrier, 2012 – Photograph Deb Boots
The Observer is an installation of a young boy who balances on a stack of chairs, capturing that sense that we are all on this precipice of change – it has a precariousness to it but also a sense of adventure. This is exactly the brilliance of Piccinini – the simple gesture that we non-science folk can connect with, and one that opens the door to thinking outside our realm of comfort.
The Observer, 2010 – Photograph Deb Boots
Then you are taken through into the newly commissioned Pneutopia, where air currents circulate in the atrium, as if it were softly inhaling and exhaling.
Enter an immersive environment and soundscape with over 3,000 biomorphic flowers standing on one metre tall stems. It is intensified by a darkened gallery space with black walls, many small speakers and the floors have springs to allow the gentle movement of Piccinini’s field of white flowers. Between the visual display, motion and sound, creates an ‘other world’ experience.
The Field, 2018 – Photograph Deb Boots
Piccinini describes Kindred, an orangutan-like mother gently holding her two babies: ‘In this work, we see three unique individuals each set at a different point on a continuum of greater or less ‘animal-ness’ … the point is not their differences, but their connection.’
Kindred, 2018 – Photograph Deb Boots
In the sea of biomorphic flowers, we also have the star attraction, well at least the sculpture that is commanding the attention to the wonderland of weirdness.
The Bond, 2016 – Photograph Deb Boots
Teenage Metamorphosis, 2017 – Photograph Deb Boots
A retro 1980s caravan with a young couple inside in an embrace, adventure bound.
The Couple, 2018 – Photograph Deb Boots
The world needs art! Creativity is another way we can express ourselves, educate in an abstract approach and lead conversations.
“The capacity of Piccinini’s art to transport us in this way, to shift our emotions and to open up how we might conceive the world is what makes her one of the most important artist’s working in our times.”
My visits to galleries are more about finding inspiration and sharing the experience with my creative friends. The Patricia Piccinini Curious Affection exhibition delivered on the inspiration, and while Im not about to go out creating imaginative creatures, it was a reminder to think outside the square, embrace difference and follow my instincts … and mostly I got to enjoy the experience with my wickedly funny friend Terri who made the exhibition that much more interesting.
Known for her imaginative creatures that embody surrealism and mythology, the Patricia Piccinini exhibition is definitely a must-see experience when you are visiting Brisbane in the coming weeks. The Patricia Piccinini Curious Affection exhibition is showing until 5 August 2018. For more information visit the GOMA website.