In what is the largest solo show of Patricia Piccinini works ever staged in Australia, Patricia Piccinini: Curious Affection, which opened at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) on Friday, is both a beautiful and creepy experience.
Taking up the entire ground floor of the vast GOMA building, with a one of the works reaching its pinnacle in the gallery’s atrium, Piccinini opens the senses and the curious mind to a series of what she calls “propositions”or “catalysts for conversations”.
Known for her disturbingly human-like creatures made from silicone, fibreglass, human hair, clothing and found objects, Piccinini created the works in the Melbourne studio she shares with her husband, artist and sculptor, Peter Hennessey.
“Over the years, I have built up a sort of alternative world that exists just beyond the real world we live in. It is strange but familiar at the same time. What I wanted to do for this exhibition is to bring this entire world to life,” Piccinini says. ‘I am interested in the boundaries between things like technology and nature between the environment and humans and animals, which seem to be breaking down.”
A highlight of the show – and a gateway to the entire exhibition – is a giant orange inflatable sculpture Pneutopia, (2018), which dominates the gallery space and billows from what appears to be the roof of a humble garden shed.
Step inside the shed and look up into this mass of fleshy forms as it journeys up the gallery’s atrium. Suddenly you are subsumed into another, almost bodily, world. The themes of flesh, body and reproduction are echoed throughout the show with a playful emphasis on the orifice as a meeting of the ‘inside and out.’
“Even though there’s a lot of monstrosity it’s very positive, it’s sanguine, it’s pulsing with the life force,” Patricia Piccinini
Also among the new works is The Field, (2018), a literal field of 3000 flower sculptures on willowy stems which appear to ebb and flow as you walk through the space. Dotted among the fleshy flowers are more new works which again are disturbing and yet strangely familiar. Kindred, (2018) is a sculpture of an orangutan-like mother and two babies which offers a chance to bond with the commonality of animal life and motherhood.
The Couple (2018), is a intimate work set inside a vintage caravan which is placed within a diorama of wildlife is also another double-take moment. “For the people coming to see the show, I wanted them to have a journey, a real experience,” she says, “the show is really about relationships, wonder and fecundity, this whole world (in the show) is brimming with life, even though there’s a lot of monstrosity it’s very positive; it’s sanguine; it’s pulsing with the life force,” Piccinini says. “We see a lot of ambiguity, but there is commonality with each creature and that is about reproduction.”
The companion gallery space holds a retrospective of Piccinini’s previous works. “It’s great to have all the family members in one place. It’s quite interesting to see the different ways of relating to artwork, I would have been happy just doing this retrospective show to be honest, but to be able to come to GOMA and have this, to be able to reflect on the work in this way has been fantastic.”