I first heard about Australian artist Patricia Piccinni from Monkey Said Bear (perhaps Kentuckiana’s hippest collaborative blog). I was unfamiliar with hyperrealist sculpture at the time and I found her work to be repulsive, disgusting, and maybe even a little offensive.
Around a month ago I realized I’ve barely even scratched the surface of Istanbul’s thriving contemporary art scene and started researching which galleries were exhibiting what. I was surprised to see Piccinni had a rather extensive exhibition at Arter (3 entire floors!), I was even more surprised when I realized I had already seen the window display while eating gelato with my friends on Istiklal Caddesi a few weeks before.
The exhibition is called “Hold Me Close to Your Heart” and according to the artist statement “proposes an experience , a journey to another world: one that is simultaneously unfamiliar and strangely similar to ours. This experience encourages the viewer to stay at this very moment to focus on the highly contemporary issues and debates about technology, media culture, consumerism and science.”
I was personally impressed by Piccinni’s ability to invoke curiosity, empathy, and even affection for her creatures, many of which defy any traditional concept of beauty (the creature that was growing shrews out of the pouches on it’s back was particularly repugnant). The juxtaposition of these creatures with photo-realistic human subjects was especially affective, whether it be cuddling with a human child or attacking a woman’s face. It was sometimes difficult to distinguish what was the installation and what was just a particularly intrigued viewer (one man sitting in the corner I was quite sure was one of her statues. I might have stared at him for a while).
I especially liked her artist statement about “The Lovers”.
“The Lovers” follows on from a number of works that explores the idea of nature rendered in mechanical form. These works wonder at the naturalisation of technology in contemporary life, and imagine a life cycle for machine that is closer to that of animals. In doing so, they evoke the increasingly ‘natural’ place that technology occupies in our lives, but also the growing role that technology plays in the natural world. In a world where we get our food from the supermarket, the cow becomes a ‘milk machine’ and the milk itself the product of a mechanised process where the animal is just one small biological cog in a much larger apparatus. However, in depicting the scooters as wild animals rather than domesticated ones – deer rather sheep – the work also suggests a world of technology that is beyond our mastery…. these wild machine creatures undercut our basic assumption that technology is always within out control. This idea is at the core of our beliefs about it and is assumed to be true, but I sometimes wonder if that is really so.”