Francis Upritchard


Francis Upritchard
Production date:
Accession No:
545 x 160 x 410mm
modelling material, steel, synthetic polymer paint

Collection Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth. Acquired with assistance from the Govett-Brewster Foundation.

Francis Upritchard made Horseman during her 2008 residency at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery as part of the installation rainwob i. The installation presented a motley cast of characters sculpted from modelling compound and painted in startling psychedelic colours. Managing to combine comedy and pathos, Upritchard’s gang of saints and outcasts, the visionary and the pathologically odd, seemed to collectively embody the archetype of the holy fool. Horseman, the lone centaur in the midst of this bizarre herd, lent an extra touch of fantasy to the ensemble.

However, Horseman diverges from the traditional associations of centaurs. In Greek mythology, these fantastic creatures often represented strength and unbridled passion. Horseman, stooped, thin-armed and knock-kneed, somehow fails to live up to his testosterone-filled ancestry. Centaurs are liminal beings, caught between animal and human states. Horseman’s pose, with the strangely elongated hands hanging limply and baleful, moon face half turned, is that of someone waiting around, a bit lost. The fact that he is sporting an erection simply intensifies the pathos of his confused upper half. He’s raring to go, but not quite sure where.

The gorgeous colour scheme of Upritchard’s dejected centaur recalls the tie-dyed utopias of hippie culture. Not only trapped between species, Horseman is also in the wrong era: a throwback to the 1970s. Like a religious figurine for a futuristic rainbow cult of the past, Horseman, thrust into the present, exhibits a kind of ambivalence. His eyes are closed in a gesture that signifies an interior focus, a disengagement from the world in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment, but with his stick-like arms and oddly stunted horse body he somehow seems too awkward and forlorn to be a true believer.