VAULT speaks with Urs Fischer one of the most significant contemporary artists working today about his conceptual practice exploring sculpture and installation and his penchant for setting things on fire.
When I speak to internationally celebrated Swiss artist Urs Fischer in Los Angeles a few days before Christmas it is a 36-degree Queensland day, the kind of heat that warrants noting. The conversation opens, politely, on the topic of the weather: about Los Angeles in the aftermath of the Malibu fires, evidence of which is all over the city, from ash falling in West Hollywood to the charred hills surrounding the city. We speak about bushfires, there and here (I send him photographs of the burnoff happening at my house and we discuss the importance of hazard reduction), fire, destruction, rebirth and renewal, which proves an entirely serendipitous yet appropriate introduction to a deeper conversation around Fischer’s much-lauded sculptural works made of wax.
In March, the National Gallery of Australia will unveil its most recent significant international purchase, Francesco (2017), a sculptural portrait by Urs Fischer of respected Italian art curator Francesco Bonami standing atop a refrigerator, looking intently at an iPhone in his hand. The sculpture is designed to be burnt: wicks are inserted at various points on the work; all of the wicks can be lit simultaneously to expedite the process, or the life of the work can be extended with limited burning. It can be burnt continuously or sporadically. There are no parameters, but it is designed to burn to a puddle of wax, like a candle. The NGA’s acquisition is the first of Fischer’s iconic candle sculptures to join a public
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