Patricia PICCININI, The stags Enlarge 1 /1


Sierra Leone born 1965

  • Australia from 1985

The stags 2009 Place made: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: sculptures, fibreglass, automotive paint, plastic, stainless steel, leather, rubber tyres Impression: 4/4
Edition: edition of 4

Dimensions: 196.0 h x 224.0 w x 167.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2009
Accession No: NGA 2009.858.A-K
Image rights: © Patricia Piccinini

Cross-pollination between technology, nature and artifice lies at the heart of Patricia Piccinini’s work, in which she tackles issues of genetic engineering, bioethics, the naturalisation of technology and the prognosis for human existence in our contemporary world.

All my work is concerned with the definition of how what we consider artificial and natural is changing—the role that technology plays in our contemporary imagination.

The stags embody Piccinini’s serious, yet witty, exploration of where the biological intersects with the artificial. Her starting point is the Vespa, the cult Italian motor scooter, which was ridden by mods in the 1960s and often embellished with a profusion of rear vision mirrors. Here, two scooters have come to life and morphed into duelling male deer with beautifully crafted mirrors for antlers. Animal life as we know it has been driven off the reservation and into the city; the Vespas have fully mutated, their factory settings a mere genetic memory.

The artist delights in the sinuous curved forms and perfect glossy surfaces that bring movement to the sculpture. The survival-of-the-fittest mentality of the multi-mirrored horned stag clearly dominates the other, which cringes in submission. Even the Vespa’s dial, morphed as a face, suggests defeat. These wild machine creatures embody Piccinini’s idea that technology is not always within our control. Piccinini’s trademark questioning of the place of the natural in an increasingly mechanised world is something she once attributed to growing up in Australia’s pre-planned capital city of Canberra.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014