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September 18–November 20, 2022
Artist’s talk: September 17, 4–5pm, Francis Upritchard in conversation with Stefanie Gschwend
Opening: September 17, 5–8pm, with speeches, aperitif, catering, children’s preview
The sculptures of Francis Upritchard (born 1976 in New Zealand), who occupies a space between realism and fantasy, are flamboyantly theatrical while yet being astute observers of human nature. They investigate the material and aesthetic qualities of human and anthropomorphic forms and are made from a diverse range of materials, including rubber, metal, stone, and glass. Upritchard’s art incorporates references from science fiction, folklore, ancient sculptures, and the animal realm while drawing on craft traditions and design.
In her sculpture and spatial installation titled A Loose Hold, the artist deliberately places human and anthropomorphic shapes into unsettling settings. The finely produced sculptures, which occasionally incorporate found things, are frequently embellished with hand-woven blankets, tie-dyed silks, and custom-made clothing. The sculptures’ range in size—from miniature to monumental—as well as their artistic presentation test the viewer’s eye.
Curiousity and an examination of the human form are traits of Upritchard’s art. The group of dressed figures, which are roughly one metre high and manually sculpted in polymer clay, exhibit the most expressive reflection of the human-like traits. The face, arms, and feet are painted with a geometric pattern or a monochromatic color scheme. The artist’s figures defy easy classification and allow for various readings because they cut across cultures and time. For instance, nobody wears a uniform that would identify them as belonging to a specific occupation. Instead, the clothing is odd.
Upritchard has conducted substantial shape and material experiments more recently, producing a variety of dinosaurs and other creatures from the extracts of wild rubber trees. They seem natural, yet their execution is also massive and terrible. Since some of the rubber works are bronze casts, they are less flexible and suggest a distinct understanding of materiality. The name of the exhibition, A Loose Hold, comes from the wild rubber. It derives from a description of how to work with the material: to feel supple or authentic, it requires a particular speed and looseness.
The amazing book Piranesi (2020), written by British author Susanna Clarke, served as another source of inspiration for the exhibition. The story takes place in a home that resembles a parallel dimension with an endless number of halls and atriums that progressively rob visitors of their memories. It is a very vivid book that describes numerous enormous statues in addition to other features of the mansion, such its steps. We discover traces that remind us of Clarke’s fictitious home in the show. Unlike archetypal portrayals, the sculptures in the spacious Salle Poma are things that anyone, regardless of gender or age, can interpret in their own ways. Depending on the viewer’s attitude, a scene may be frightening or pleasant.
The artist’s first solo show in Switzerland is titled A Loose Hold. With a few exceptions, all of the works—more than 100 in total—were produced specifically for Upritchard’s solo exhibition in Biel. With writings by Stefanie Gschwend and the 12-year-old LPPL, a monographic publication in three languages—English, German, and French—will be released in conjunction with the show.
Curators of the exhibition
Stefanie Gschwend and Felicity Lunn