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Creative Paddington: Petrina Hicks

By Lola Pinder


Petrina Hicks is a Sydney-based photographer and video artist. Her signature large-scale, hyper-real, fine-art photography is celebrated nationally and internationally.

Hicks’ commercial background deeply informs her aesthetic. Her works are tightly controlled set-ups, with even lighting and a clean finish. She subverts the slick commercial style images with conceptual underpinnings of the uncanny, the abject or the sexualised. Through ever-so-slight ruptures in the image, Hicks plays with our contemporary conditioning of reading commercial photographs, she lures in an audience only to taunt them with unsettling under-currents, contrary to the pay off of everyday advertising. Hicks encourages this audience dissatisfaction in order to draw the viewer towards the tension between the surface and content in her work, and with that, the disconnect between fiction and reality in advertising.

In recent years Hicks has also found success in her video works. The Crysalis was included in the Guirguis New Art Prize, the new national acquisitive art prize featuring contemporary Australian artists. In this piece, Hicks manipulates state-of-the-art technology in order to reveal the sexualisation of women in the media and the use of seduction in advertising. She films in profile the mouth of a woman licking at a stem of flowers, using a Phantom high-speed video camera. She films at 800 frames per second in order to create a fluid slow motion effect that heightens the sexuality of the action, but also an element of disgust or embarrassment at the high definition, dripping of saliva from the figure. 

Hicks has exhibited and taught at the ACP. She has described how the place helped her when she was starting out;

‘The ACP has played a vital role in my career, providing me with a place to process and print my photographic works in the early years - at this time I was a regular user of the darkroom & studio facilities, and having regular access to these facilities was instrumental in developing my arts practice.’

Hicks has exhibited globally, recently being selected to show at Volta New York in March 2015, the 17th International Videobrasil, Brazil, the Pingyao International Photography Festival in China and Art Platform, Los Angeles. She has been offered residencies at La Cité, Paris Residency, AGNSW and an eight-month fellowship with Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany.
Hicks has been awarded various notable prizes and residencies including the 2014 Bowness Photography Prize and the Josephine Ulrick Photography Award for Portraiture and ABN Amro Emerging Artist Award also in 2008. Her work is included in many national collections including the AGNSW, NGV, GOMA and Artbank. 

This post is part of the Art Month Event Creative Paddington taking place on March 7th in conjunction with Metro Screen and UNSW Art & Design.


Images: installation details from exhibitions Hicks has had at the ACP © ACP

From ACP exhibition Pet Project in 2007 'Emily the strange', and from ACP exhibition Hijacked III in 2012, 'Shenae and Jade' & 'Jackson and Tiger', 2005.