Urs Fischer - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Wednesday, June 29, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Through scale distortion and illusion, the Swiss-born, New York-based artist Urs Fischer has, throughout his oeuvre, tackled themes of perception and representation with sardonic wit. Executed on a monumental scale, Fischer’s, Iron, is an impressive example from a small series the artist created in 2015. Using his face as the starting point, this body of work exemplifies Fischer’s experimental preferences and builds upon his typical subversion to the established mode of self-portraiture in art history.


    Fischer has built his celebrated reputation on his continuous investigational practice, exploring the opportunities to contrast opposite phenomena. Fischer has pursued these conflicting notions through an inexhaustive array of media; from sculpture and installation, to drawing, painting, photography, printing and digital montage. The details of materials used in his work are scrupulously documented and scientifically noted in the artist’s own cataloguing. Evidenced in Iron, Fischer creates what appears to be an enormous abstract, but is in fact a self-portrait; heavily impasto in appearance, it is in reality almost flat; the density of the pigment is countered by the delicate patterning of the silkscreen technique.


    Pushing the subject to new limits, Fischer’s self-portrait Iron is made defiantly permanent, asserting its physical presence and place in art history through its huge scale and hefty aluminium support. An artist known for merging boundaries; the substantialness of the support allows the painting to move between the realms into sculpture. Fischer has noted ‘the way I see it, my paintings are more like sculptures. I see them as objects on the wall that have a particular surface. The paint applied is just one possible layer.’i

    'Think of Picasso. What transcends is not an individual painting; it’s the fantasy of the first liberated hand. He was really prolific throughout his life, and that’s what we remember, not the actual artwork.' —Urs FischerAs a proclaimed student of art history, the present work reflects Fischer’s acumen in both knowledge and technique. Iron seemingly references the collage technique instigated by Pablo Picasso and George Braque in early 20th century France, and the Surrealist master René  Magritte who would cover his subjects faces with everyday objects, thus concealing their identity.
    Whilst paying ode to those who have influenced his craft, the present work also return to ideas explored in the artist’s own portfolio.


    Rene Magritte, The Lovers Painting, 1928, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Image: Luisa Ricciarini / Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022


    The subject of the human figure and self-portraiture placed alongside the notion of time passing and decay, have been a consistent source of inspiration for Urs Fischer. Returning his art historical almanac, it was perhaps Salvador Dalí that galvanised Fischer’s figurative wax works since 2001. In this series, the artist often puts his forms through melting, fragmentation decapitation and penetration. As the melting candle distorts and dissolves the likeness of the wax sculptures over time, Iron is subjugated to similar treatment where Fischer uses brushstrokes to distort a previously recognisable image of his own face.


    Salvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory, 1931, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Image: Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © Salvador Dali, Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation/DACS, London 2022


    Within Iron, passages of rippling fleshy pinks, sky blues and stormy greys chase each other across the surface. Fischer harnesses the techniques enabled through photography and silkscreen to both represent and obscure his own likeness. In these works, Fischer draws on his early studies of photography as a young artist at Schule für Gestaltung in Zurich. Working on top of an enlarged photograph, rotated 90 degrees, the artist’s fragmented face is now barely permissible through the layers of silkscreen, ink, acrylic paint, gesso and primer that encircle elements of his face, such as the eye, eyebrow and nose. By making reference to the Canon while reckoning with his own style, Fischer creates new imagery imbued with fresh ideas unique to his identity as an artist.


    Urs Fischer is currently the subject of his celebrated solo exhibition Urs Fischer: Lovers at Museo Jumex, Mexico City through 18 September 2022.


    i Urs Fischer, quoted in an interview with M. Gioni, in B. Curinger, M. Gioni and J. Morgan, eds., Urs Fischer: Shovel in a Hole, exh. cat., New York, 2009, p. 60 

    • Condition Report

    • Description

      View our Conditions of Sale.

    • Provenance

      Sadie Coles HQ, London (acquired directly from the artist)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Fischer, Urs, Phantom Paintings, New York, 2017, pp. 60 - 61
      Fischer, Urs, Urs Fischer Paintings 1998-2017, New York, 2019, p. 575 (illustrated, pp. 384, 575)



signed and dated 'Urs Fischer 2015' on the reverse
aluminium panel, aramid honeycomb, two-component polyurethane adhesive, two-component epoxy primer, galvanised steel rivet nuts, acrylic primer, gesso, acrylic ink, acrylic silkscreen medium and acrylic paint
243.8 x 304.8 x 2.2 cm (95 7/8 x 120 x 0 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2015.

Full Cataloguing

£400,000 - 600,000 

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 29 June 2022