Francis Upritchard: Wetwang Slack
Francis Upritchard: Wetwang Slack
The Curve, Barbican Centre
27 September 2018 – 6 January 2019
Media View: Wednesday 26 September, 10am – 1pm
Supported using public funding by Arts Council England. With additional support from Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa and the Henry Moore Foundation.
This autumn, marking the 30th Curve commission at the Barbican, New Zealand born and London-based artist Francis Upritchard has conceived of a new, site-specific installation. Drawing from both figurative sculpture and craft traditions —ceramics, tapestry, glassblowing to enamelling—she pushes these practices in new directions, bringing them together to create a striking and original visual language of her own. Francis Upritchard: Wetwang Slack opens in The Curve on Thursday 27 September 2018.
Playing with scale, colour and texture, Upritchard has approached The Curve as three separate ‘galleries,’ each populated by a spectrum of different materials and vibrant figures and objects. The first contains large, brightly coloured polymer clay sculptures in various poses, bedecked in hand-made garments supported by plinths. In contrast, the second gallery has a series of bespoke metal and glass shelves suspended from the ceiling, displaying small-scale works in bronze, glass and over-sized shirt tapestries. The large figures displayed in the final section are sculpted from balata, a natural rubber harvested in Brazil, and are based on the Japanese folklore characters of Ashinaga-tenaga (Long Legs and Long Arms), who extol the virtues of harmonious working relationships.
Francis Upritchard said: “I'm envisaging an exhibition which works with the brutalist Barbican architecture with stone, wood, glass and metal – brutal but rational with my delicate, strange and sometimes colourful works atop. I've been thinking about The Curve as offering a kind of rainbow-light spectrum that plays with distortion and scale.”
Known for her array of archetypal figures in varying sizes from medieval knights to meditating futuristic hippies, these tantalising forms are hand-modelled in polymer clay, their skins painted in a range of monochromatic colours or distinct gridded patterns as if from an otherworldly tribe. Hand-woven blankets, tie-dyed silks and bespoke garments often decorate these deftly made sculptures which are frequently combined with found objects. Upritchard also regularly creates sculptural installations of utilitarian objects from vases, plates, lamps or urns often imbued with anthropomorphic forms and carefully arranged into mysterious domestic environments. More recently, she has experimented with both form and material, creating a group of dinosaurs out of papier-mâché or extracts from rubber trees in Brazil which have been displayed on elegant tables manufactured by the Italian company Olivetti. For The Curve commission, Upritchard is working with Fine Cell Works to embroider the oversized shirt tapestries. FCW is a therapeutic programme which teaches creative needlework skills to prisoners promoting self-esteem and discipline. Upritchard will also work with designer Martino Gamper to create bespoke steel and glass shelving and plinths for the sculptures, as well as the glass artist, Jochen Holz.
Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican, said: “It is with great pleasure that we are welcoming Francis Upritchard to devise a new installation. Our thirtieth commission, Upritchard is the latest in an exciting lineage of contemporary artists, such as Tomas Saraceno, rAndom International, Richard Mosse, Yto Barrada, and many more, who have exhibited in our unique space. I am especially excited to see an installation of figurative sculpture and have no doubt that Upritchard’s cast of remarkable characters will occupy The Curve space in an entirely magical way, demonstrating her imaginative approach and sensitivity to materials.”
Previous works include Upritchard’s provocative installation, Traveller’s Collection (2003), in which she created a tomb-like cabinet of curiosities, influenced by both Ancient Egypt and Maori cultures. Her installation Rainwob I & II (2007) similarly saw Upritchard drawing inspiration from different historical periods, whereby her small, handmade, colourful figures were based on 15th century wooden sculptures to 1970s photographs of revellers at Glastonbury Festival. Upritchard represented New Zealand at the Venice Biennale in 2009 with her installation Save Yourself in which she created an imaginary landscape of figures and structures, placed on recycled wooden table tops. More recently, a survey of the last two decades of her work entitled Jealous Saboteurs was presented at the Monash University Museum, Melbourne, Australia; Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand and Dunedin Public Art Gallery, New Zealand in 2016–17.
Francis Upritchard was born in 1976 in New Plymouth, New Zealand and lives and works in London. After studying Fine Art at Ilam School of Art, Christchurch, she moved to London in 1998 where she co-founded the Bart Wells Institute, an artist run gallery, with artist Luke Gottelier. In 2006 Upritchard won New Zealand's prestigious Walters Prize, and has had major solo exhibitions at Vienna Secession in 2009, Nottingham Contemporary in 2012, Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center in 2012, Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art in 2013, and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles in 2014. In 2009, she represented New Zealand at the Venice Biennale. Her work is in international collections including Tate, London; Hammer Museum, Los Angles; Paisley Museum, Scotland; Saatchi Gallery, London; Auckland Art Gallery, Toi o Tāmaki; Christchurch Art Gallery, Te Puna o Waiwhetu; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; and Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane. She is represented by Kate MacGarry, London; Anton Kern Gallery, New York; and Ivan Anthony Gallery, Auckland.
Notes to Editors
For further information, images or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Ann Berni, Senior Communications Manager +44 207 382 7169,
Lily Booth, Communications Officer +44 207 382 6162,
Bréifne Ó Conbhuí, Communications Assistant, +44 207 382 7254,
Press images available online from the Barbican Newsroom
A link to the image sheets can be found in the ‘Downloads’ box on the top right-hand side of the page from: www.barbican.org.uk/FrancisUpritchardNews
All Barbican Centre press releases, news announcements and the Communication team’s contact details are listed on our website at www.barbican.org.uk/news
The Curve, Barbican, London
Public information: 0845 120 7550 / www.barbican.org.uk/artgallery
The Curve opening times:
Saturday – Wednesday 11am–8pm
Thursday & Friday 11am–9pm
Bank Holidays 12pm–8pm
Closed 24, 25 and 26 December
The Curve is the Barbican’s free exhibition space that wraps around the back of the Concert Hall. Launched in May 2006, Curve Art is a series of new commissions in which contemporary artists respond to the distinctive architecture of the space. Artists who have previously made new commissions for the Curve are Tomas Saraceno (Argentina); Richard Wilson (Britain); Jeppe Hein (Denmark); Marjetica Potrč (Slovenia); Shirana Shahbazi (Switzerland/Iran); Hans Schabus (Austria); Huang Yong Ping (France/China); Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (Canada/Mexico); Peter Coffin (USA); Clemens von Wedemeyer (Germany); Robert Kusmirowski (Poland); Céleste Boursier-Mougenot (France); John Bock (Germany); Damián Ortega (Mexico); Cory Arcangel (USA); Junya Ishigami (Japan); Song Dong (China); rAndom International (Britain); Geoffrey Farmer (Canada); Ayşe Erkmen (Germany/Turkey); United Visual Artists (Britain); Walead Beshty (USA/Britain); Roman Signer (Switzerland); Eddie Peake (Britain); Imran Qureshi (Pakistan); Bedwyr Williams (Wales); Richard Mosse (Ireland); John Akomfrah (Britain); and most recently Yto Barrada (Morocco).
The exhibition has been commissioned by the Barbican, London using public funding by Arts Council England, with the support of Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa and the Henry Moore Foundation.
Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde will be on show in Barbican Art Gallery from Wed 10 Oct – Sun 27 Jan 2019 (Media view: Tue 9 Oct 2018, 10am –1pm).
For more information, please visit: www.barbican.org.uk/ModernCouplesNews
Also coinciding with Francis Upritchard: Wetwang Slack is the sixth of the changing foyer displays The Hull of a Large Ship (18 May – November 2018) which explores the Barbican Art Centre original drawings with contributions by five architecture practices.
To find out more about specific events as they are confirmed, check the website for full listings: www.barbican.org.uk/artgallery
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully-illustrated publication, including a newly commissioned essay and an interview with the artist. The book is the eighth in a publication series by Barbican Art Gallery that focuses on The Curve exhibition programme.
Ann Berni, Senior Communications Manager: 020 7382 7169, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lily Booth, Communications Officer: 020 7382 6162, email@example.com
Bréifne Ó Conbhuí , Communications Assistant: 020 7382 7254, firstname.lastname@example.org