Preview

Podcast interview by Tiarney Miekus. You can also listen on iTunes here.

The lead image on QAGOMA’s website for Curious Affection is a portrait of the artist, Patricia Piccinini, next to one of her sculptures. The sculpted faces of a woman and the fleshy, ridge-backed child-creature she cradles could almost be real. When contrasted with the artist’s body, though, the blankness of the child’s eyes and a slight waxiness of flesh gives it away.

Patricia Piccinini, Balasana, 2009, Silicone, fibreglass, human hair, red-necked Wallaby, clothing, rug, 53 x 76.5 x 122cm. Ed. 1 of 3 Private collection, Melbourne Courtesy the artist.

This uncanniness plays out in a much more visceral sense when faced with Piccinini’s works in – so to say – the flesh. They share the pinkish pallor and hairy follicles of Caucasian humans, but here they diverge. Exaggerated folds and orifices form creatures that are part animal, part human and all mutant. It is the familiarity of flesh-like silicon, moulded into unfamiliar configurations, that makes Piccinini’s works at once attractive and repulsive.

Curious Affection – QAGOMA’s largest ever solo presentation by an Australian artist – will feature these sculptures alongside photographs, drawings and new work, including a commissioned inflatable that will fill a multi-storey atrium.

Piccinini’s work is inspired by research into genetic technologies, from gene splicing and IVF in the 1990s, through to recent advancements in genetic coding.

Rather than presenting genetic mutation and alteration as monstrous or fear inducing, Piccinini approaches technology with openness and curiosity.

Arguably Piccinini’s particularly grotesque creatures, like Bottom Feeder (2009) and The Pollinator (2017), are designed to push the limits of empathy and bring us face to face with our own body horror. But according to exhibition curator Peter McKay, Piccinini’s visual fables suggest that our “engagement with nature, [our] reverence and sense of wonder, can be rekindled through our use of technology.” By expanding – or completely redefining – our conception of what is natural and good, we can move towards equity and equality in a rapidly changing world. – Rebecca Gallo

Tiarney Miekus