Patricia Piccinini, born in Sierra Leone in 1965, is widely recognised as one of Australia's leading contemporary artists. Since graduating from the Victoria College of the Arts, Melbourne, in the early 1990s, her works have explored the body's intimate relationship to its environment, reflecting on issues of genetic engineering and medical science to consumption, suburban living and car culture. Working across digital photography, sculpture and installation, Piccinini fashions compellingly ambiguous presentations of the body that play upon scenarios of bio-technological intervention. She has exhibited widely in Australia, staging solos shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, and the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, and has featured in numerous international exhibitions in Tokyo, Berlin, Cardiff and Liverpool. In 2003 she represented Australia at the Venice Biennale. Piccinini lives and works in Melbourne.
Patricia Piccinini is a Postmodern artist in her use of technology and her creation of artworks that challenge some of the big ethical issues of our contemporary world. Her works confront the audience, demanding a response. She is highly creative and her work has a slickness that reflects her concern for precision.
Piccinini has stated that she tries in her art to connect and reflect something of our times and what is happening in them. Her works comment on the increasingly artificial nature of contemporary life - from plastic surgery and geneticall modified foods to IVF programs and stem cell research (genetic engineering). Her 'creations' thus challenge us to think about the consequences of science intervening in natural creation. Stimuli for Piccinini's art have included the medical research into cloning, such as the celebrated Scottish sheep Dolly, the first cloned animal in history (which died in 2003), and other experiments to synthetically create human parts.
Source: Essential Art (Victorian Essential learning Standards Levels 5 & 6), Glenis Israel, pp. 204-5.
My work always begins with drawing. I develop my ideas using drawing and then, when I feel that it is starting to to become something worth making, I start to think about how it might be made. The medium tends to come as I start to think about how best to express a particular idea, whether that might be photography or sculpture or a more resolved sort of drawing. Sometimes there is some sort of materiality that I want to work with and other times it is about how I might best connect viewers with the ideas. At that point I start to think about fabrication.
Since 2005 I have worked out of a space in Collingwood in the inner city of Melbourne. Prior to that I went 'out of house' for much of my fabrication, but now the only processes that we don't do in the studio are the automotive painting and foundry work. I have small team of amazing technicians who I work with to fabricate the works. Since I am not a technician myself, I am not particularly wedded to any particular process, and therefore the studio is very flexible. We have certain techniques that we have gotten very good at, many of which are fairly widely used and others which we have developed ourselves. We use both traditional skills such as hand sculpted plasticine models as well as computer-based techniques like CNC and 3D-printing. It really depends on what is going to work best.
collaborative: describes a process of working with others rather than alone; cooperating as a team.
contemporary: of this time, usually taken as being within the last 10 years; up to date.
malleable: able to be reshaped
pristine: pure or perfectly formed as in an object's original state; unblemished.
Source: Essential Art (Victorian Essential Learning Standards Levels 5 & 6), Glenis Israel, p. 202
Piccinini invites us to think about our place within a time when biotechnology and digital technologies are challenging
the boundaries of humanity. confronting us with her seemingly grotesque hybrid beings and anthropomorphic
machines, she invites us to find beauty in a world that can never be perfect.
Source: Art Gallery of South Australia (Education resource).
The following themes and concepts integral to Piccinini’s work are interesting as a basis for discussion:
• care and responsibility toward what we create (or destroy)
• the blurring of boundaries between science, technology and humanity, particularly between humans and machines
• what it means to be human (or family) in a world in which boundaries are blurred: our place at this time –
and in the future
• the possibilities (and drawbacks) of biotechnology
• our relationship to the environment, to the natural and the artificial
• consumerism in contemporary society
• life and death, and ideas of salvation and sacrifice
• identity (and what we identify with)
• how we manage / respond to difference and change
• contemporary art practice, and how advances in science and technology have created new possibilities for artists.