Patricia Piccinini has created a new way of filtering the world. Her art questions what happens to us when we recognise that we are just one animal among many. Patricia is best known internationally for her too-human animal sculptures, the collision of nature and insane genetic experimentation. Her sculptures are unsettling and grotesque, but with a mythological sort of beauty.

Patricia was born in Sierra Leone but raised in Canberra, and is now based in Melbourne. She has spoken about the ‘handicap’ of being an Australian artist – the tyranny of distance is a real challenge for Australian creatives, forcing us to work twice as hard to be heard.

I asked Patricia to share some lessons that art school cannot teach you. The recipe for success as a global artist, then, is taking these lessons on hard work, connections and believing in your worth, and multiplying them by 100.

Patricia Piccinini’s lessons on living a creative life:

On collaboration

‘When I graduated, the most important thing I did was set up an artist-run space.’

‘I didn’t work in my garage until I was discovered by a famous curator – far from it! I am here because I have always worked with other people. I am here because I did a bunch of small things that gradually got bigger.’

‘Connections are the most important thing you will make.’

On competition

‘There is a very strong idea in the art world that only one in 100 artists can survive. I hate the implication of this idea, the culture that it implies. It sets up a world where artists are divided, and that success can only be achieved at the expense of everybody else’s failure . . . It is rooted in the idea that the art world is based on toxic competition.’

On reflection

‘When people told me that they weren’t interested in my work, I took it as a challenge to work out why, and come back to them with something more compelling.’

‘I learnt how people relate to art – which is not very easily – and I had a lot of time to think about why we make art.’

On success

‘I learnt that being an artist is as much about showing art as making it. You might make the best art in the world, but if it can’t be seen it just doesn’t exist, and no one is going to come looking for it.’                                                       

‘I learnt to lose. You are not going to win every prize, get every grant, get every sale, meet every curator – you are going to miss out on plenty of opportunities. The art world is not always fair, but it does recognise persistence.’

‘The politics of care is really important. Art is not just about art; it is about people.’

‘Truth Bomb’ by Abigail Crompton is out now through Thames & Hudson, and available to purchase here!



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