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28 May - 16 October 2016

Francis Upritchard: Jealous Saboteurs

Jealous Saboteurs is a touring exhibition 

Christchurch Art Gallery, 25 March – 16 July 2017

Dunedin Public Art Gallery, 12 August – 26 November 2017


Spanning twenty years of work, this is the first major survey exhibition of New Zealand-born sculptor Francis Upritchard. A graduate of Christchurch’s Ilam School of Fine Arts, Upritchard moved to London in 1998, where she became one of our most successful overseas artists. She maintains a close relationship with New Zealand, returning and showing here regularly. Upritchard’s work has always been rife with allusions from other times, places and cultures. Her early works sported an exotic Egyptian-African ‘look’.

In 2003, she was shortlisted for the Beck's Futures prize for an installation in which a small mummy lay on the gallery floor vibrating and moaning, surrounded by ceramic canopic jars. She followed up with faux-Maori artefacts, anthropomorphised sloths and monkeys, rocks and orreries, and rainbow-patterned sages and exotic dancers. Scale is key. When Upritchard represented New Zealand in the Venice Biennale in 2009, she arranged small figures on large tables of her own design. The tables implied spacious landscapes across which the figures interacted.

She explained: ‘I want to create a visionary landscape, which refers to the hallucinatory works of the medieval painters Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel, and simultaneously draws on the utopian rhetoric of post-sixties counterculture, high modernist futurism and the warped dreams of survivalists, millenarians, and social exiles.’

Upritchard went on to create more exhibitions combining objects, figurines and furniture. These included collaborative installations with her partner Italian furniture designer Martino Gamper and German-born, New Zealand-based jeweller Karl Fritsch. They called their supergroup Gesumptkunsthandwerk, suggesting a marriage of art, craft and design. Upritchard’s recent works—large figures, on metal stands—continue to scramble suggestions of ethnic and cultural stereotypes, but remain impossible to pigeonhole. Are her figures kabuki performers, red Indians, harlequins, or hippies in technicolour dreamcoats? Are they gurus or imbeciles? Have they transcended history or been discarded by it? Upritchard neither ridicules her subjects nor takes them so seriously. Her references linger beguilingly out of reach.

Upritchard won the Walters Prize in 2006. She has had major museum solo shows at Vienna Secession in 2009, Nottingham Contemporary in 2012, Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Centre in 2012, Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art in 2013, Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, in 2013, and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, in 2014. She is represented by Kate MacGarry, London; Anton Kern Gallery, New York; and Ivan Anthony Gallery, Auckland. Our exhibition is a joint project with Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, and curated by their Director Charlotte Day and our Chief Curator Robert Leonard.

Buy the catalogue.

Supported by City Gallery Foundation. 

In association with MUMA