Sierra Leone born 1965
Materials & Technique:
sculptures, silicone, fibreglass, human hair, clothing Edition: edition 1/3
Australia and New Zealand’s blobfish became an internet sensation in 2013 when it was awarded the title of ‘Worlds Ugliest Animal’ by the Ugly Animal Prevention Society—bit of a misnomer, really, as it appears quite like your average fish when under the immense pressure of its deep-sea environment. But the votes came in and the blobfish took the ‘honour’. Unfortunately, the attention it received didn’t stop the deep-sea trawling that has brought this marvel of nature to the brink of extinction. Two year’s earlier, Australian artist Patricia Piccinini was already raising awareness of the plight of this deep-sea dweller.
Piccinini has long championed creatures of such alien beauty (real and imagined, natural and artificial) to challenge our complacency toward nature and the march of technology. Unlike many, though, she recognises the remarkable ability of nature to adapt to the artificial world, often imagining a trajectory in which neither is clearly distinguishable from the other. But, she plays a different hand in Eulogy 2011. ‘It is a quiet work,’ says Piccinini, ‘not histrionic … a celebration of its [the blobfish’s] life’.
To some, her sculptures and photographs, with their own brand of ‘ugliness’, can be quite confronting. Although, children seem to marvel in their unusualness, perhaps because a child’s world view is one in which departures from the norm become opportunities for discovery—they make far fewer culturally defined aesthetic judgements than we adults do. So, when I see the NGA’s little visitors pointing and smiling wide-eyed at the blobfish in Piccinini’s Eulogy, I smile, too, if but for a moment.
Of course, looking beyond the work’s marvellous hyper-real appearance, there is a sad reality that we, as adults, understand better, or more readily, than children. It is bittersweet. With the wonder Piccinini offers us in Eulogy, she also invites tenderness, empathy for this ‘fish out of water’ in today’s commercially driven world—the pose of the man holding the fish undeniably drawing us into a moment of reflection.
Eric Meredith, Editor
in artonview, issue 85, Autumn 2016