Skywhale family takes to the sky for Christmas holiday

Skywhale and Skywhalepapa are fired up for a regional tour of Australia

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The Skywhales flew under the radar for a test flight on Monday morning.

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She's one of Canberra's largest artworks, but she can still fly under the radar when she needs to.

Skywhale, along with her male companion Skywhalepapa, took to the uncharacteristically grey Canberra skies for one last time this year for a test run, before the hot air balloon family begins its journey around the country next month.

Eagle-eyed early risers might have spotted the oddballs in the dawn sky across the National Arboretum on Monday morning, as the National Gallery of Australia's conservation ran a test flight to certify the balloons as aircrafts, and check their condition before sending them on tour.

Created by Canberra-born artist Patricia Piccinini, the fantastical balloons first flew together in February, as a collective installation project entitled Every heart sings.

"It's a project that talks about nature, family, evolution, care and wonder. They float into our lives to make us smile and think," Piccinini said.

Into the skies and under the radar - Skywhale and Skywhalepapa take a test flight before heading on tour. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Into the skies and under the radar - Skywhale and Skywhalepapa take a test flight before heading on tour. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Skywhale in her original, single state was originally created to mark Canberra's centenary in 2013, and has been keeping people talking ever since.

A giant, whale-like creature with 10 breasts, Skywhale has travelled around the world sparking awe and making headlines.

The gallery acquired the work in 2019, and commissioned Piccinini to create a companion piece.

Piccinini has said her intention was always to create something that was a sculpture of a living creature, rather than a "balloon that looked like something".

She also wanted something to speak to Canberra's genesis as a planned city nestled in the natural landscape.

Many of her sculptures are of mythical, often grotesque but always lifelike creatures, emphasising nature's ability to adapt to an artificial world, and exist on a spectrum on which it's hard to distinguish the real from the imagined.

Skywhalepapa and Skywhale fire up for a test flight. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Skywhalepapa and Skywhale fire up for a test flight. Picture: Keegan Carroll

"My question is what if evolution went a different way, and instead of going back into the sea, from which they came originally, they went into the air and we evolved a nature that could fly instead of swim?" Piccinini has said.

The mythical creatures will travel first to Maitland, to fly on January 15, before continuing on to South Australia, Victoria, regional NSW, Queensland and Alice Springs.

This story first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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