Alumna honoured with prestigious art award

7 August 2014

Contemporary artist Patricia Piccinini (BA 1992) was recently awarded the biennial Artist Prize in the Melbourne Art Foundation National Awards for the Visual Arts.

The Artist Award recognises the outstanding achievements of an Australian artist through their entire career and artworks.

Since the 1990s, Patricia has been creating a comprehensive body of work that has been pushing the boundaries of science and nature, and combining the elements of mythology to what people would normally perceive as natural.

Her artworks in sculpture, installation and photography are often confronting and challenges the human emotion and the mind.

“My work is fairly mythological in that I present situations that people can connect to on an emotional level so that they can create their own ideas, their own responses,” she says.

Similar to many other contemporary artists, Patricia’s work has occasionally been met with criticism. The Skywhale, a hot air balloon in the shape of a tortoise-like animal with multiple dangling udders, was criticised by former ACT chief minister Jon Stanhope, who questioned why it was commissioned to commemorate Canberra’s centennial celebrations.

Patricia admits that the Skywhale can be confronting but added that she wanted to provoke imagination and critical thinking.

“When you’re in an art gallery you know it’s art and you know that you’re meant to be thinking about the current art ideas. But the Skywhale is different because it’s not displayed in the usual art gallery context.”

The concept of thought-provoking and imaginative thinking is displayed all over Patricia’s works. The Young Family, a life-size pig and human hybrid suckling her young, is meant to evoke empathy.

“What she’s talking to us about is that she has reproduced and is thinking about the future of her own offspring and that’s something we share with her.”

Throughout her career, Patricia has accepted that she cannot please everybody with her art.

“A lot of people bring baggage to the work and I can’t help that. Once I make the work it goes out there, people respond to it in whatever way they want to and often it’s to do with their own ideas about nurturing, maternity, breasts, breastfeeding,” she says.

Despite all this, Patricia says she always tries to reflect on one central human condition in her artworks: Love.

“Love is not looking at the one you care for, but looking in the same direction as the one you care for.”

With reference from:

Catchart, M. and L’Estrange, S. (2014, August 5). Artist Patricia Piccinini honoured with lifetime achievement award.

Stranger, L. (2014, July 23). Patricia Piccinini awarded for her works.

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