Sunday, June 6, 2010


Today I visited Patricia Piccinini's Relativity exhibit at the Art Gallery of WA. No photographs were allowed, so I have shamelessly stolen pics from the gallery's website... A quick google will reveal many more of her sculptures.

The word 'grotesque' comes up quite frequently in discussions of Piccinini's work. The artist herself argues that her sculptures are "beautiful rather than grotesque, miraculous rather than freakish."

One reviewer follows a similar line when he comments that her characters are different from the other 'gross' beasts that populate mass culture. Robert Stevenson says:

"Piccinini's work questions where the boundaries lie between what is natural and what is made. When gross cross-species creatures invade our cities in horror films our choices are simple. But in works like The Long Awaited (2008), Piccinini casts the creature as grandmotherly, sleeping, vulnerable and in an embrace with a small boy. Our instincts are immediately confused."

I find it significant that the artist explicitly rejects the label of 'grotesque' in favour of 'beautiful.' Her work does seem to confuse the notion of grotesqueness, or at least the viewer's understanding of it.

Stephen Bevis from the West Australian comments that:

"Despite their potential for repulsion, Piccinini's grotesqueries are usually presented with an empathy and subversive humour which plays on our collective tendency to anthropomorphise nature. Often, they often have a childlike cuteness with their big eyes, small noses and vulnerable postures."

I got to touch the little one above. So cute. And fuzzy. Up close, each creature's skin is extremely lifelike - you can see wrinkles, moles, age spots and tiny hairs.

The one below is titled 'The Embrace' but I thought 'First Day of School' would suit it as well.

It has that "don't leave me!!" vibe.

Hard to ignore the resemblance to another famous face hugger:

Ah, the joys of motherhood.

Relativity is definitely worth checking out if you live in Perth or nearby. I'll be visiting again before it finishes in August.

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