For those visiting during Art Basel in Hong Kong (29–31 March 2019), the smell of fresh paint may still be in the air at the latest heritage conservation project, The Mills, which opened on 16 March to encompass the Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textiles (CHAT), joining the ranks with ex-prison complex Tai Kwun, along with Eaton HK—a retro...
Firenze Lai says that she knows her studio of a few hundred square feet intimately; from the textures of its surfaces to the way the breeze blows into the room. The spaces depicted in her paintings are equally intimate. When curators seem to be at a loss for words to discuss troubled times, fear of containment, and the feeling of being completely...
In Meiro Koizumi's three-channel video installation, The Angels of Testimony (2019), the central frame features an interview with Hajime Kondo about his time as a solider of the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The conversation centres on war crimes perpetrated in China, including the beheading of Chinese prisoners for...
Patricia Piccinini, Kindred (2017), 103 x 95 x 128cm. Exhibition view: QAGOMA exhibition Curious Affection (24 March–5 August 2018). Photo: ArtsHub.
When walking through Patricia Piccinini's exhibition Curious Affection with Curator Peter McKay, he commented: 'It's the biggest exhibition we've devoted to a single contemporary artist, and we've been trying to find a comparative exhibition of this scale that's been presented in Australia - I don't think there is one.'
McKay is right. Piccinini's exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) is massive - not only in terms of the breadth of Piccinini's work with over 70 sculptures, drawings, videos and large-scale installations, but also in terms of the exhibition's design, which has been incredibly engineered to realise Piccinini's vision.
Patricia Piccinini is known for her confronting, unsettling sculptures and installations made from fibreglass and silicone and human hair. Her 2002 work The Young Family, deals with the issues surrounding using genetically modified pig organs as replacements for humans to alleviate shortages. She wants her audience to wonder how her apparently grotesque, transgenic, hyperrealist creatures came to be, how they relate to real, current contexts, and if they can be considered ‘beautiful’ and are ‘good’ or ‘bad’. This allows for the creation of an indefinite number of narratives. Despite its shocking impact, Piccinini’s art has an air of familiarity about it, forcing the viewer to consider why they feel some deeper connection to these creatures. Her sculptures, installations, drawings, and video, require a certain degree of imaginative input from the viewer. They invite them to confront the increasingly significant role of biotechnology, consumerism and digital technologies in modern life, as well as the intricacies and complexities of social relationships.
In her piece The Stags (2009), Piccinini gives life to machines. This is perhaps her most consistently underlying theme: blurring the lines between the real and the fantastic; asking whether each viewer’s version of reality can be subjected to radical change.Piccinini has exhibited across Australia, New Zealand, Peru, the United States, Europe and Brazil. Noteworthy exhibitions include her 2005 show, Patricia Piccinini: Relativity, at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth, and a major retrospective Patricia Piccinini: Once Upon a Time at the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide in 2011. She also represented Australia at the 2003 Venice Biennale and has recently made The Skywhale in 2013 to mark the centenary year of the city of Canberra. More recently, Graham was made in 2016, commissioned by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) to highlight the vulnerability of the human body in road accidents.
For more than 10 years I have been going out into the technological wilderness and documenting the lives of the beasts that I imagine might live there. In a world where the cultural and the natural - the technological and organic - are ever more intermingled, this wilderness is my symbolic representation of a space where technology has become so natural that it takes on a life of it's own.
Over the years I have captured moments from the lifecycle of the inhabitants of this place; birth, mating, rivalry have all been depicted through scenes drawn as if from some alternative nature documentary. The Struggle presents possibly the completion of the lifecycle of these creatures, a moment where predator and prey are locked in a grave struggle for survival. "Nature, red in tooth and claw."
The Struggle, and the works that precede it, are also references to the representation of nature and it's beasts in Art History. The Struggle draws from the millennia-old trope of the predator and prey - from the lion and ox of Persian bas-relief to the lion and horse of Greek sculpture and its reinterpretation in the C19th paintings of George Stubbs for example. In all these cases, these portrayals are more than just likenesses of things that do exist in the world. They are symbolic images that refer to the hard (and soft) truths of human life.
The Struggle catches these creatures at a point where the outcome is unclear. Eventually there will be a winner and a loser, but at this moment it is impossible to tell which one it will be. We must pick a side, and then decide if we want to imagine a 'good' or a 'bad' end. Which one we choose says more about us than about the world around us.
Surrounding The Struggle are a new series of Panelworks, which are the landscape painting of this inorganic wilderness. They are works spun directly from the 'stuff' of this world, synthesised from its shiny surfaces and angular, automotive forms.
In many ways these are works that focus unashamedly on formal properties. These Panelworks have evolved alongside my practice. Their forms are more complex and sophisticated, sharper and more defined. The colours also come from a new place, suggesting a spectrum rather than discrete individuals. They are about colour and lustre and the (guilty?) pleasure of beauty that is "skin deep". On one level, Panelworks are an acknowledgement that we might need to see the beauty in a world of plastic and paint so that we can move past an idea of this world as somehow separate from the rest of nature. Or maybe I'm overthinking it? To be honest I'm happy for them to just be what they are.
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