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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Portrait of Patricia Piccinini, 2019

Allissa Oughtred

inkjet print on paper (frame: 161.5 cm x 125.0 cm, sheet: 146.5 cm x 110.0 cm)

Patricia Piccinini (b. 1965) was born in Sierra Leone, arrived in Australia with her family in 1972, and grew up in Canberra. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne in 1991. In 1994, Piccinini initiated The Basement Project Gallery in Melbourne, which she coordinated until 1996. Piccinini’s work has been represented in numerous art biennales all over the world, including in Taiwan, Cuba, the UK, Germany and Korea. Her 2003 exhibition We Are Family represented Australia at the 50th Venice Biennale. Since 2005, Piccinini has worked out of Drome Studio in Collingwood in the inner city of Melbourne. In 2013 she created The Skywhalecommission for the Centenary of Canberra. Piccinini was awarded the 2014 Melbourne Art Foundation Visual Arts Award.

Always beginning her creative process with drawing, Piccinini’s interdisciplinary practice encompasses sculpture, installation, photography, sound and video. To the public at large, Piccinini is best known for her mutant life-like creatures rendered in silicone, but her practice is exceptionally broad and deeply conceptual. In a recent essay ‘Some thoughts about my practice’, Piccinini identifies connection, empathy, unnamed emotions, diversity, storytelling, surrealism and wonder as concepts central to her practice and writes:

‘I am interested in relationships: the relationship between the artificial and the natural, between humans and the environment. The relationships between beings, within families and between strangers. And the relationship between the audience and the artwork … Over the years, I have built up a sort of alternative world that exists just beyond the real world we live in … This is a world where things mix and intermingle, where nothing stays in its place. It is a world where animal, plant, machine and human unite and commingle. We have to ask ourselves, if it is so hard to figure out where one thing starts and another ends, can we really continue to believe in the barriers that separate us.’

Since 1991, Piccinini’s work has appeared in numerous solo exhibitions nationally and internationally. Her recent exhibitions include Life Clings Closest at Cairns Art Gallery in 2019 and Curious Affection at the Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art in 2018. In the last two years Piccinini has taken exhibitions to the Arken Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark, the Hosfelt Gallery, San Francisco, USA, the Vancouver Biennale, Canada and Kibla Portal, Slovenia. In 2014 she was awarded the Melbourne Art Foundation Visual Arts Award. In 2016 she was awarded a Doctor of Visual and Performing Arts (Honora Causa) from the Victorian College of the Arts. Piccinini’s work is held in most of Australia’s major national and state collections. In 2017, Piccinini was appointed as Enterprise Professor at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of an anonymous donor 2019
© Allissa Oughtred

Accession number: 2019.56

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Allissa Oughtred

Patricia Piccinini (age 54 in 2019)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

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On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

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Eye to eye

Previous exhibition, 2019

Eye to Eye is a summer Portrait Gallery Collection remix arranged by degree of eye contact – from turned away with eyes closed all the way through to right-back-at-you – as we explore artists’ and subjects’ choices around the direction of the gaze.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.