Patricia Piccinini

Air Sculpture; Patricia Piccinini's SKYWHALE


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The Centenary of Canberra in Australia has unveiled its largest commission – a sculpture by internationally renowned artist and former Canberran Patricia Piccinini that is a 34m long, 23m high hot-air balloon called The Skywhale. The Skywhale is at least twice as big as a standard hot-air balloon, weighs half a tonne and used more than 3.5km of fabric. It took 16 people seven months and more than 3.3million stitches to design and make.

Through the balloon design, Patricia continues her artistic exploration of questions about what is natural and what is artificial. Her work explores what it means to be human in a world of genetic engineering and biotechnology as well as how these technologies change the relationship between people and nature. The world she creates exists somewhere between the one we know and one that is almost upon us. However, what she imagines is neither the nightmare future of environmental ruin nor the brave new world of perfect scientific progress. Instead, she focuses on the internal, emotional lives of the new creatures that might emerge, along with questions about the kinds of relationships that might come to light alongside them.

Patricia’s creatures, while strange and unsettling, are not threatening. It is their vulnerability that often most comes to the fore. They plead with us to look beyond their unfamiliarity and ask us to accept them. It is surprising how quickly we grow used to them, which reminds us that this sort of thing is not as far in the future as we might think. We are already surrounded by hidden genetic engineering and biotechnology in our food and our animals. Patricia’s world is one of questions rather than answers. She does not tell the viewer what to think about genetic engineering, but instead she asks them how they feel when confronted by the possibilities.

The balloon was launched on Saturday 11 May at the National Gallery of Australia, as part of the Sculpture: Space and Place symposium that was the national focus of the TOUCH: Sculpture and the Land program of exhibitions, talks and commissions in Canberra throughout May.

Find out about more of Patricia's work at  

Ed McCormick


Edmund McCormick is the founder of Cape Crystal Brands and EnvironMolds LLC. He is the author of several non-fiction “How-to” books, past publisher of the ArtMolds Journal Magazine, editor of Beginner's Guide to Hydrocolloids, and author of six eBook recipe books available for download on this site. He resides in Far Hill, NJ and lives and breathes his art and food blogs as both writer and editor. You can follow him on Twitter and Linkedin.


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