It's a bird, it's a plane, no it's Splendour's Skywhale

Australian sculptor Patricia Piccinini's Skywhale at Splendour.
Australian sculptor Patricia Piccinini's Skywhale at Splendour. Mireille Merlet

THE gentle giant presiding over of this year's Splendour in the Grass Festival is a 36m by 26m hot air balloon called the Skywhale.

The brainchild of Australian sculptor Patricia Piccinini, the balloon can only be described as one of the most intricate and unique air balloons ever to grace the Northern Rivers skies.

It is the chandelier of the hot air balloon world.

Project manager Rebecca Townsend saw the Skywhale in Canberra last year for the Capital City's centenary celebrations "and I thought it would be great for Splendour so we proposed it".

The Skywhale arrived in the Northern Rivers last month and took a test flight by Byron Bay Ballooning staff at Tyagarah.

"The structure and architecture of the balloon inside is quite amazing," Ms Townsend said.

The sculpture is made of polyester fibre with an interior coating to protect it from heat, like hot air balloons, but Skywhale has been painted using a special technique which makes it mythically life-like.

"It's been printed very carefully by the artist so it looks like skin. It's not bright primary colours, it really looks like an animal, and that's what gives it an artistic aspect," Ms Townsend added.

"The guys from Byron Bay Ballooning said it's quite an amazing accomplishment to produce it."

The Skywhale will only be up in the air for a total of nine hours during the festival.

At $3500 for three hours flying high above Splendour, producing the artwork's exhibition is an expensive exercise requiring an Australian-registered pilot plus five staff.

The Skywhale uses liquid propane as a fuel to heat the balloon.

"This fuel is considered very clean in comparison to other fuels available," Ms Townsend said.

The Skywhale will be tethered to the ground during the festival to allow festival-goers to have a closer look to the artwork.

Ms Piccinini said the balloon was "something of a meditation on nature and evolution", which are two things which fascinated her.

"Perhaps the Skywhale is a genetically modified creature or perhaps it is some undiscovered species, or perhaps it is something mythological and entirely symbolic. I think that is up to the viewer. I do think that whatever she is, she is a benign and wonderful presence."

The artwork caused some controversy during its inception in Canberra, receiving a mixed reception when it was unveiled in May 2013.

Australian Capital Territory Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said at the time her eyes "nearly fell out of

her head" when she first saw a diagram of The Skywhale's design, but she had come to like it and believed that it would challenge the perception of Canberra as a boring city.

Others questioned its beauty and its value for money, costing about $300,000 to construct.

Ms Piccinini said the artwork, with its 10 breasts as wings and peaceful face, is not meant to be beautiful or ugly, but hopes to incite the public to think.

Topics:  splendour 2014 splendour in the grass

Vikings, horses, art and showbags at North Coast National

Vikings (left to right) Gabriel Hooper, Peter Romilio and Michael Rowe with a replica model of a Viking ship on display at the North Coast National Show.

PHOTO GALLERY: The iconic Lismore show is on today

Walk for human rights and refugees


Lismore will host a walk for refugees and human rights Saturday

Water main replacement means road closures

The area that will be affected by the water main replacement this weekend.

There will be a temporary road closure as a water main gets replaced

Local Partners

Finishing touches to beautify Bangalow Weir

FINAL finishes on the Bangalow Weir are underway and residents are encouraged to join an upcoming beautify planting day.

Former Split Enz front man Tim Finn finds new niche

Singer Tim Finn has written the music for theatre production Ladies in Black.

Musician finds his way to theatre

Jethro Tull is back to Bluesfest

ICONIC: Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull at Bluesfest 2011.

Jethro Tull returns to Bluesfest next April

Beth Hart will set the stage on fire

ON FIRE: Beth Hart, coming to Bluesfest 2017.

American singer/songwriter Beth Hart

Azealia Banks won't take legal action against Russell Crowe

Rapper Azealia Banks

Rapper drops legal action against Russell Crowe

Brad Pitt meets with his kids amid divorce proceedings

Actor Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt has met up with his oldest son Maddox

Pictures of Taylor Swift allegedly being groped are sealed

They could "complicate jury selection".

Bruce Springsteen finds therapy useful

Singer Bruce Springsteen

Singer encourages others to seek help

Kerry Washington wants one more child

Kerry Washington recently gave birth to her second child

Kerry has only just become a new mum again

TRAVEL: Musicals light up Sydney

David Campbell performs in Dream Lover.

We take a trip through one of Sydney's finer scenes

Hit songwriter's Noosa mansion on market

SPECIAL PLACE: The Cintamani estate is going to tender, marketed by Tom Offermann Real Estate.

Is this Queensland's best property?

Kiwi siblings snap up Dotcom mansion for $32.5m

The new toy company owners of the Coatesville mansion want replace any controversy with positivity and fun. Photo / Barfoot and Thompson

The trio paid $32.5 million for the property in June

New $200 million development will create 580 jobs

Cassie And Josh with baby Alfie and daughter Andee. They have bought at new Lennox Head development Epiq.

Majority of new positions will be given to Northern Rivers locals

Cherrabah's mega resort plans axed

PLANS for a massive development at Cherrabah have been scrapped.

Dusit Thani finance crisis 'just a small hiccup'

ON TRACK: Springfield Land Chairman, Maha Sinnathamby, Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale, Developer Richard Turner and Springfield Land Deputy Chairman, Bob Sharpless, at the recent resort sod turning ceremony.

Property developer says project remains firmly on track

Heavyweight enters real estate market

Des Besanko principal and director of Raine and Horne Springfield.

Major rebranding which has seen two big name brands merge