Urs Fischer – Untitled (2011) Unfired clay sculptures


Half an apple and half a pear, loosely stitched together, hang on a nylon thread from the ceiling of an exhibition space. This work is a typical example of the artistic practice of Urs Fischer (Zürich,1973, lives and works in Zürich and New York). The two elements are combined in an almost Dadaist manner, on the basis of their visual resemblance, as time and nature slowly catch up with them until they finally fuse into a mouldy substance and become one.


Materiality and transience are the uniting factors in Fischer’s diverse oeuvre, in which transformation, transparency and inevitable destruction are recurring themes. Fascinated by the nature and substance of diverse materials and the process of creation itself, Fischer transforms candle wax, silicones, wood, Styrofoam, pigment, plastic, PVC and organic materials such as fruit and bread, to create powerful, often everyday kinds of objects, with a touch of humour. For his first solo exhibition at the London gallery Sadie Coles HQ, he presented three female nudes, made entirely of wax. With their brightly coloured wigs and make-up, they had a cartoon-like quality. The title What if the phone rings (2003) creates a certain moment of tension and mystery. Like the three Graces, the mythological sisters, they allude to a long tradition in art history, in which the female nude and the qualities of beauty, fertility and good fortune were central. Fischer’s Graces, however, came to an unhappy end. During the exhibition, their wigs were set on fire, fusing them into an indistinguishable mass.


A similar transformation and transience are key to the work that Fischer created for Lustwarande ‘11. Randomly distributed around the park, he placed a huge number of sculptures made of unfired clay. The use of this raw material means that the clay retained its beige colour and the sculptures had the character of a model or a sketch, in which the maker’s fingerprints were still clearly visible. The figures also had to endure wind and weather and slowly merged with the park throughout the course of the exhibition.


In his continuous search for new visual solutions, Fischer creates organic and experimental works, which both mimic real life and create an alienating effect. Fischer allows room for the unpredictable process of his material combinations and ultimately gives free rein to self-destruction. With his Untitled (2011), Fischer appears to be paying tribute to the Swiss artists Fischli & Weiss, who have been modelling a variety of everyday objects in unfired clay and rubber since the 1980s. With their hobbyist materials and techniques, they provide a critical take on today’s methods of continuous production, which are determined by economic forces.

A cartoonish element underlies the fantasy world of Fischer, the ‘Fischer universe’, in which a simple, efficient and often humorous tone predominates.


Laurie Cluitmans / translation Laura Watkinson