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Kunsthaus Pasquart opens Francis Upritchard's 'A Loose Hold'
Francis Upritchard – A Loose Hold Exhibition view Kunsthaus Centre d’art Pasquart 2022, Courtesy the artist and Kate MacGarry. Photo: Angus Mill.



BIEL/BIENNE.- Francis Upritchard’s (*1976, New Zealand) sculptures are situated between realism and fantasy; whilst flamboyantly theatrical, they are also keenly observant of human nature. Made from a wide variety of materials, such as rubber, bronze, stone and glass, they explore both material and aesthetic aspects of human and anthropomorphic forms. Upritchard’s work draws on craft traditions and design, combining references from science fiction and folklore to ancient sculptures and the animal kingdom.

In A Loose Hold, the artist creates a sculptural and spatial installation to which she imbues human and anthropomorphic forms, carefully arranging them into mysterious environments. Often hand-woven blankets, tie-dyed silks, and custom-made garments adorn the deftly crafted sculptures, which are sometimes combined with found objects. The varying scale of the sculptures, which can be tiny or monumental, in interplay with their presentation, challenge the viewer’s gaze.

Upritchard’s works are characterised by curiosity and an exploration of the human form. The most expressive reflection of the human-like qualities can be found in the group of clothed figures, which are modelled by hand in polymer clay and are about one metre high. The face, arms and feet are painted in a palette of monochrome colours or with a geometric pattern. The artist’s figures, which transcend culture and time, resist easy categorisation and allow for multiple readings. For example, no one wears a uniform so that they could be assigned to a particular profession. Instead, the clothes are strange.

More recently, Upritchard has experimented extensively with form and material, creating a group of dinosaurs and other creatures from extracts of wild rubber trees. They appear natural, but at the same time monumental and brutal in execution. Some of the rubber works are cast in bronze, which makes them less pliable and implies a different perception of materiality. The wild rubber gives the exhibition its name – A Loose Hold. It comes from a description about working with the material: it needs a certain speed and looseness to feel supple or authentic.

Another inspiration for the exhibition was the fantastic novel Piranesi (2020) by British author Susanna Clarke. The narrative is set in a house that represents a parallel dimension consisting of an inexhaustible number of corridors and atriums, which gradually causes the loss of memory in those who arrive. It is a very visual book, detailing many gigantic statues as well as other attributes of the house, such as its steps. In the exhibition we find traces that evoke a sense of Clarke’s fictional house. The sculptures in the large Salle Poma are not archetypal representations, but objects that everyone, regardless of gender and age, can read in their own meanings. Frightening or friendly: that can depend on the mood of the viewer.

A Loose Hold is the artist’s first solo exhibition in Switzerland. It includes over 100 works, all of which – with a few exceptions – Upritchard created especially for the solo presentation in Biel.

The exhibition is displayed on the two floors of the new building; it begins in the Galeries and ends in the Salle Poma.










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