Portraits of the spirit

Detail: 'Jockey' by Francis Upritchard. From the exhibition, Jealous Saboteurs. Seen at Wellington City Gallery. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

Detail: ‘Jockey’ by Francis Upritchard. From the exhibition, Jealous Saboteurs. Seen at Wellington City Gallery. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

A gallery of clay figures; posed, painted, dressed. All different, but at the same time strikingly similar. One face in many disguises?

This gallery of characters forms part of the exhibition Jealous Saboteurs — a survey of work by Francis Upritchard, a New Zealand-born, London-based artist. They are clever and whimiscal — drawing on motifs and imagery from many sources.

Detail: 'Mandrake', by Francis Upritchard, Jealous Saboteurs exhibition at the City Gallery, Wellington, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

Detail: ‘Mandrake’, by Francis Upritchard, Jealous Saboteurs exhibition at the City Gallery, Wellington, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

In sculptures of the human form, the eyes are almost always blank — there is no discernible pupil or iris to give us the visual cues we draw from living people. So if eyes are “the window to the soul” — how do we read statues?

Detail: 'Potato Seller' by Francis Upritchard. From the exhibition, Jealous Saboteurs. Seen at The City Gallery, Wellington, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

Detail: ‘Potato Seller’ by Francis Upritchard. From the exhibition, Jealous Saboteurs. Seen at The City Gallery, Wellington, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

Without the clues provided by body and clothing, what can we say about these figures, who all seem to share the same facial features. Can we discern, or perhaps imagine, emotions? Is it possible to create meaningful portraits of a statue? I’m interested in your views.

Detail: (name unknown) by Francis Upritchard. From the exhibition, Jealous Saboteurs. Seen at The City Gallery, Wellington, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

Detail: (name unknown) by Francis Upritchard. From the exhibition, Jealous Saboteurs. Seen at The City Gallery, Wellington, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

Detail: 'Yellow and Black Gown' by Francis Upritchard. From the exhibition, Jealous Saboteurs. Seen at The City Gallery, Wellington, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

Detail: ‘Yellow and Black Gown’ by Francis Upritchard. From the exhibition, Jealous Saboteurs. Seen at The City Gallery, Wellington, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

This post was written for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge at Lens and Pens by Sally.

The title is from Robert Louis Stevenson, who said:

It is not likely that posterity will fall in love with us, but not impossible that it may respect or sympathize; so a man would rather leave behind him the portrait of his spirit than a portrait of his face. — Robert Louis Stevenson

 

 

 

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26 thoughts on “Portraits of the spirit

    • They are really amazing when you can see the whole body. Here’s a link to Upritchard’s dealer’s website. It has some different statues from the same series. I’d be interested to know what you think of them. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Su! Wow! These are just so amazing!! (somehow your link was not added in your messages, but I just googled here and landed on her webpage 😉 ). She´s such a talented artist! The sculptures really draw in your eyes, it´s like you can´t help but look at them, and look at them intently. Very impressive indeed! Would love to visit an exhibition as is must be even more stunning… 🙂 I really like the combination of coloured clay with other materials (there was a picture of Knight in a knitted Chain mail – so cool!). I wonder how big the kiln must be for those statues as they seem to be life sized? Makes me want to try out something similar 😉 Did you have your Klimt-based idea before or after you visited her exhibition? How´s it going by the way? 😉
        Wish you a very lovely week! 🙂 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry about the link; I just forgot to paste it in. The statues are pretty much life-size, so I guess she has (or has access to) a fairly large kiln. I was thinking about playing with a Klimt theme before I saw the exhibition. I found some images online of polymer clay jewellery made with canes based on Klimt designs — if that makes sense. My first experiment in this was, hm, interesting. I’ve learned a lot about how to lose the shape and structure of the clay canes — and acquired some interestingly patterned earrings 🙂 Hope your week is going well. xxxxxx

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haha! I know how that goes! I often plan on doing something with clay, and after working for hours it turns out something entirely different, like: “Mmmh, let´s make an owl…” after which it turns out to look more like on otter 😉 But I find these experiment stages of a project just as interesting as the end result, to be honest. And I would love to see those earrings!! (I´ve got quite a thing for earrings 😉 ) Have a very lovely week-end!!! xxxxxxxxxxx ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I agree that the blank eyes are unsettling. It makes me realize how much we depend on eyes (in more than one way, of course), even if we can’t read emotions from them in the way books would have us believe. I think that the whole body is used, rather than just the eyes, but either way, a face with no eyes is very odd.

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sculptures have no soul and maybe that is because the eye is not well defined. None of the clay images have discernible eyes so their true spirit would be very difficult to see. Their manner is somber and maybe even troubled. Interesting collection Su.
    Leslie

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge: Challenger’s Choice-Photomontage (Banana Leaves) | Lens and Pens by Sally

  4. well I am now caught up here and this clay figure post is nice to warp up my visit with,
    and I am going to look them up like Miss G did so I can see the full body too –
    – we have an old book (one of our favs during the younger years) called A Man and His Hat and it is all clay – an old man, his wife, and their cat. They cannot find his hat and each page moves the clay figures. It is fun and this post reminded me of it – but maybe…
    maybe it reminded me of that book because I have just read Nostalgia part 2…..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow… Beautiful pictures!

    It’s a real art to capture a good portrait. I recently gathered a list of 12 most beautiful portraits I’ve ever seen so it’s always good to get some inspiration from other blogs!

    I really enjoyed reading and watching your post.

    Like

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