Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery

Patricia Piccinini

The way they connect without seeing

During the dark days of COVID, my family adopted a cat. After living with him for a while, I wondered why he kept slowly blinking at me. The Japanese cat book that I got explained he was smiling at us and this knowledge made me feel really happy. After a while I found that I was cat smiling myself, not just at the cat but at people too.

To me there is something very wonderful about even this most rudimentary of interspecies communication. It simultaneously highlights the possibility of connecting beyond ourselves but also the uniqueness of the different ways in which we experience the world. I like the idea that we don’t need to be the same in order to share the world together, we just need a small moment of shared understanding.

The works in this exhibition all attempt to capture the intrinsic optimism of this idea. They try to coax such moments from the interplay of making and medium, to reconcile the supposedly disparate interests of materiality and action, abstraction and figuration. This is where the glass works connect with the works on paper, and even the silicone sculptures.

With the works on paper I begin with shapes and colour, flowing out from a somewhat uncontrolled drawing process, which I later overlay with a number of recurring iconographies. I often draw birds, in this case the “Superb Fair Wren” which is both native and common in Australian cities. They are known as ‘blue wrens’ because of the male’s beautiful blue plumage. What I recently discovered is that these blue feathers are only worn during the mating season, to attract mates. During the fertile months they go from plain brown to brilliant blue. They do it even though it makes them more vulnerable to predators. However, it is worth it to be beautiful. In these works the smiling cats eyes and the wrens coexist, held together by a network of hair that represents the complexity of existence.

We find both the hair and the cats returning in the figurative works. “La Brava” is a passionate figure, caught between the stylisation of the drawings and performative emotion of a  diva. She welcomes the viewer into this world in a way that is both recognisably human and definitively not. “The Protege” is a childlike chimera that embodies the endless possibilities that flow from the very ordinary miracle of reproduction. Together they form a strange sort of family.

The figurative sculptures reflect a love of detail and care of making that you can see in the meticulous drawings of birds and hair in the works on paper. All of these works embody a respect for both material and processes, and by extension the experience of those who view them.

The extraordinary, colourful alchemy of glass itself is at the heart of the Breathbloom and Lighthaven works in this exhibition. Hand-blown glass is an almost perfect metaphor for my conceptual interests. These are luminously colourful objects produced by the interplay of terrific heat and human breath, constrained by a constantly changing steel mould of my design. The works capture a moment when these elemental forces are guided by human actions in a way that is more about cooperation than control. Like most of my work, they try to reconcile and blend oppositions; their visual lightness contrasting with their physical weight, their simple abstract colourfulness contrasting with the extraordinary skill of their creation. They are bubbles made of molten sand. While that sounds terrifying, it is actually elementally beautiful, which is just the sort of paradox I enjoy.

29 November—25 January

Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery

8 Soudan Lane Paddington NSW 2012