A Higher Love
In the lead-up to her major retrospective at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, VAULT catches up with Patricia Piccinini – the virtuosic Australian artist whose grotesque creations mine a fear of the uncanny but shift the borders of our empathy in the process.
Suspending one’s disbelief has become a remarkably difficult skill to harness in contemporary life. We live in an age where virtual reality and 3D are commonplace. CGI is such a ubiquitous part of cinema that audiences don’t even need to try to believe their eyes. An entire generation of children has grown up watching the new ‘old’ Star Wars films, which in theory has made them immune to the charm of the originals with their cardboard spaceships and models that fans originally fell in love with in the 1970s. We are living in era of post-hyperrealism. This might explain in part the rise in contemporary art of clunky ‘bad’ ceramics, the recalibration of craft and the revaluation of the handmade in the arts. Because if everything appears to be hyperreal, how do we know if it’s really real? Because it ‘looks’ handmade. We find ourselves circling back to Walter Benjamin’s anxious postulations about the loss of authenticity and the aura of the artwork in the age of mechanical reproduction. Where did the aura go? So many questions and no answers.
This leads me to the work of Patricia Piccinini. Orchestrator and suspender of disbelief par excellence, beloved of Australian art audiences, Piccinini has made a career of work that defies categorisation by genre. She is an artist who moves across installation, sculpture, film and photography. She could be described as the fabricator of dreams or nightmares, a magician of sorts, a contemporary Geppetto. She is of course best known for her extraordinary super-real sculptures that are as disarming as they are