Francis Upritchard 'Seated Bronze'

Julian McKinnon
Posted on 7 November 2023
“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-1960s counterculture, high-modernist futurism and the warped dreams of survivalists, millenarians and social exiles.”[1]
Francis Upritchard

Though clearly a figurative sculptor, in many ways Francis Upritchard defies categorisation. Her work references numerous aspects of cultural history seemingly all at once. Nods to sources as diverse as Ancient Egypt, early colonial era New Zealand, and contemporary media are inextricably intertwined in her playful and quirky artworks. This approach could be summed up by the title of the hit 2022 independent film, Everything Everywhere All at Once. The movie is a comical and surrealist mashup that carries a poignant, existential undercurrent – a description that could just as readily be applied to Upritchard’s captivating, sculpted figures.

Upritchard made Seated Bronze in 2007. This was during the leadup to her making a major splash on the international stage by representing New Zealand at the 2009 Venice Biennale. The prosaic title offers some description of the figure and its material, though little else. With one hand clasped around its upper thigh, and the other help up to the side of its not-fully-defined face, the figure could be lost in thought, grappling with an existential dilemma, or perhaps practicing a sockpuppet routine. Such pluralities of possible interpretation seem to be something the artist invites from her audience.

Francis Upritchard
Seated Bronze

cast bronze (2007)
260 x 230 x 140mm

Private collection, Auckland.
Purchased from Ivan Anthony Gallery, Auckland.

$20 000 – $30 000

View lot here

Cast in bronze, the sculpture carries the historic high art associations of the material, yet this sits in contrast with the quirky, playful crafting of the figure. It seems to speak simultaneously to cubism, children’s book illustration, the stopmotion animation movies of Aardman Films, and whimsical doodling. This wealth of references is consistent throughout her practice. Writing on an installation Upritchard created for the Art Gallery of New South Wales, curator Kate Goodwin stated, "Embodying inspirations that mix Quentin Blake, mythology, folklore, science fiction, and the local Moreton Bay fig trees, it’s as though these enchanting beings have stepped out of a magical storybook with an invitation to all, to play."[2]

lies at the heart of Upritchard’s broad appeal, though there is more to her work. There are undercurrents of mysticism and counterculture, references to art history, and a unique ability to draw from countless sources that give her sculptures an enigmatic quality that resists a single defining interpretation.

In 2016, City Gallery Wellington and Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne presented a survey exhibition of Upritchard’s work titled Jealous Saboteurs. A gallery text from that exhibition states, “Upritchard neither ridicules her subjects nor takes them so seriously. Her references linger beguilingly out of reach.”[3]
This very quality is evident in Seated Bronze. Paradoxically, the figure is both enchantingly simple and satisfyingly complex. Such qualities in a work make for enduring contemplation and nuanced reflection on the nature of earthly existence.

Julian McKinnon

1 Robert Leonard, “Francis Upritchard: Adrift in Otherness”,, 2016. Note 12.
2 Kate Goodwin, “Francis Upritchard blends science fiction and folklore in epic new Sydney Modern Project commission”,, 2022.
3 Unattributed, “Francis Upritchard: Jealous Saboteurs”,, 2016.