Art & creativity  |  29 Mar 2022

A new exhibition from internationally renowned Kiwi artist Francis Upritchard features a range of figures made from rubber extracted from trees in Brazil.

The new exhibition Paper, Creature, Stone also includes ceramic works, figurative sculptures and watercolours – all new pieces from Upritchard that will be on display from Saturday 2 April 2022 at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū.

“It’s exciting to be sharing brand new work by one of Aotearoa’s most prominent contemporary artists,” says Curator Felicity Milburn.

Francis Upritchard Earth, Extinction, Monitoring, Adaptations 2021. Steel and foil armature, paint, modelling material, fabric, metal, hair.

Several works in the exhibition, including the large sculptural figures, were made from Balata, a type of rubber extracted from trees in Brazil.

“Balata is a strong-smelling, unstable material that is first soaked, then softened in warm water to make it pliable. With help from assistants, because the works are large and tricky to handle, Upritchard sculpted the pieces for this exhibition underwater to avoid the effects of gravity. Once complete, the works are soaked occasionally, to retain their unusual texture – and their distinctive earthy smell,” says Milburn.

The artist worked on the exhibition during the summer of 2020/21 while she was the inaugural artist at Sutton House, a new art residency in the former home of Bill Sutton, one of Ōtautahi's most celebrated painters.

“Sutton House is a place where artists can make work, but also spend time with others, sharing ideas and creating a sense of community and connection,” says Milburn.

“As well as the curiously elongated – and captivatingly human – balata figures, it’s a rare chance to see a wide spectrum of her current practice. Also on display will be a strange array of carefully posed figures, hand-modelled from polymer clay and outfitted in clothing and jewellery made by collaborators from around the country. Ceramic vases and bowls, thrown by Taranaki potter Nicholas Brandon and glazed by Upritchard with unexpected designs, give a sense of mystery to these age-old forms.”

The pieces in Paper, Creature, Stone incorporate the work and expertise of a range of craftspeople from around New Zealand, including Brandon, fashion designer Steven Junil Park and jeweller Karl Fritsch.

“The creation of the exhibition reflects this particular, peculiar moment in human history, when working together is both harder and more essential than ever. Collaboration made this exhibition possible – and, for Francis, more fun than working alone,” says Milburn.

* Pictured above: Francis Upritchard Sisyphus (detail) 2021. Rubber and wood.