We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


The comforter



Patricia Piccinini

Sierra Leone, Australia

1965 –

  • Details

    Media category
    Materials used
    mixed media; silicone, fibreglass, steel, human hair and fox fur, clothing
    60.0 x 80.0 x 80.0 cm
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Purchased 2011
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Patricia Piccinini. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Patricia Piccinini

    Works in the collection


  • About

    'This exhibition brings together recent works that continue my explorations of the nature of life and living in the contemporary world. I am fascinated by the narrative and ethical repercussions ensuing from our increasingly sophisticated understanding of and interventions into the structure of life. The amazing and extraordinary potential for this knowledge can only be contrasted against the relatively poor use we seem to be making of it.

    Ironically, it is 'The Comforter', 2010 that is for me one of the most optimistic works in the exhibition. This piece presents a pre-teen girl, leaned against the gallery wall gently cradling a strange amorphous being. The girl is covered in hair, a genetic condition known as hypertrichosis. However she is undeniably beautiful – not just despite, but perhaps even because, of her difference.'

    Patricia Piccinini, Artist statement, November 2010

    Piccinini's hyper-real sculptures are also hyper-unreal in that they imagine a world in which developments in genetic engineering and digital media coalesce with the human to present a possible future for us all. While there is something very surreal about the tableau presented in 'The Comforter', the hairy girl has the symptoms of a rare condition and could actually be modelled from life. The creature she cradles however is pulled from the artist's imagination, though informed by research into genetic engineering. It is cute and appealing like all young things and yet strange and repelling as we don't recognise this peculiar fictive form. Picinnini's deployment of realism in her sculpture makes her invented scenarios seem so probable that we wait for her people and creatures to breathe and move. They draw the viewer in to check to see if they are alive or not, unsure if this is a world that we have created for ourselves or an illusory representation in an art gallery. The science fiction of these sculptures seems to be ready to become science fact any moment now.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 3 exhibitions

Other works by Patricia Piccinini

See all 8 works