Patricia Piccinini

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Patricia Piccinini
Born 1965
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Residence Australia
Movement Contemporary art
Graham. 2016 sculpture for the TAC's public safety campaign 'Towards Zero'.
Nest. 2006 sculpture in the 'automotive' works series.
"The Skywhale", commissioned for the centenary of Canberra.

Patricia Piccinini (born 1965 in Freetown, Sierra Leone) is an Australian artist who works in a variety of media, including painting, video, sound, installation, digital prints, and sculpture. She completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting at the Victorian College of the Arts in 1991.[1] In 2014 she received the Artist Award from the Melbourne Art Foundation's Awards for the Visual Arts.[2]


According to her 2002 National Gallery of Victoria biography:

Piccinini has an ambivalent attitude towards technology and she uses her artistic practice as a forum for discussion about how technology impacts upon life. She is keenly interested in how contemporary ideas of nature, the natural and the artificial are changing our society. Specific works have addressed concerns about biotechnology, such as gene therapy and ongoing research to map the human genome... she is also fascinated by the mechanisms of consumer culture."[1]

The Skywhale was a work commissioned by the ACT Government for its Centenary year. The ABC described the work as a "hot air balloon in the shape of a tortoise-like animal featuring huge dangling udders made from four hectares of nylon".[3] The balloon cost $300,000 and has been the subject of comments made by ACT Chief Ministers Jon Stanhope and Andrew Barr.[4][5]

In 2015 she presented as part of a group exhibition titled Menagerie at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne.[6]

In a 2014 interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Piccinini said of her work, "It's about evolution, nature – how nature is such a wonderful thing, we're just here to witness it, it's not here for us – genetic engineering, changing the body."[7] Following her 2014 win in the Melbourne Art Foundation's Awards, she went on to say that:

The thing about this award on some levels is that my work ... all of it has this first impact, the sort of impact of spectacle. It's beautifully made, strong, aesthetic, so people are interested in that and it draws them in, and then they get interested in the idea. It takes a while to get to the idea. It's not easy. So this award says, "We get it, we get what you're trying to do, we've gone beyond the surface, we can see that there are ideas underneath, and these ideas are about the opportunity for connection".[7]

In 2016, the TAC commissioned Piccinini to work in collaboration with Dr. David Logan, a Senior Research Fellow at the Monash University Accident Research Centre, and trauma surgeon Dr. Christian Kenfield, for "Project Graham" - as part of the TAC's road safety campaign Towards Zero.[8] "Graham", a lifelike, interactive sculpture, highlights how vulnerable the human body is to the forces involved in auto accidents.[9] As the TAC explains: "Graham highlights the changes we need to make to protect ourselves from our own mistakes on the road. At the centre of this system is the belief that human health is more important than anything else, he is the embodiment of the Towards Zero vision."[10] Her work is inspired by mythical creatures from harry potter.

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