Self portrait with pickles (detail)

Will French

Will French lives and works in Sydney, New South Wales. He uses a variety of media, favouring lines of enquiry over any particular discipline. His work includes visual appropriation, wry humour, universal questions and internal dialogue, with a strong leaning towards the poetic.


Will French’s art work explores personal and private vulnerabilities. His works resonate with: doubt, insecurity, humility, hesitation, fear and regret. In Uncollected Works (you win), French resigns himself to the fact that his art work will never make its way into important public collections—except via the back door. He presents tokens souvenired by him from famous art museums by leaving an identical parcel behind in the cloakroom of each institution: a rolled-up white flag of surrender that is simultaneously one of his art works and a signal of his own defeat.

His work Knot set in stone explores the public space of civic architecture. French has imposed a permanent distance—i.e. a safe space— by embedding a bronze-cast rope in between two chunks of rock associated with different Australian cities; the sandstone that is associated with Brisbane and Sydney, and the bluestone that features prominently in Adelaide and Melbourne. French artificially imposes an unbridgeable distance between the two as if fearful of their commingling.

Just a little bit longer uses the language of public signage and corporate building codes around the topic of egress. But instead of a concern with physical safety, it speaks of emotional safety. It is sorrowful, rueful and tender; made by French in response to a break-up, it is a plea from a man, to the woman who is leaving him, begging her to remain.

Even something that we think is solid and has mass and immobility, like a tombstone, is inconstant, mobile and insecure. This one’s particularly shoddy-looking, like the marker for a pauper’s grave. Please turn over, please (sketch) speaks of churned-up earth, unstable ground, and restless souls. But it’s comical as well as sorrowful. Just looking at that ‘PTO’ message is like seeing the earth fall away. It’s a riposte to Piero Manzoni’s Base of the World. It even pokes fun at the idea of a travelling exhibition. If there’s one thing in the world that is meant to be immobile and eternal, it’s a tombstone. The reason it’s not meant to budge is because it accompanies the dead; and the dead don’t do somersaults and the dead don’t do road trips.

Christine Toussainte Morrow

Top Image

Self portrait with pickles (detail), 2013
Hand carved enamel-painted alloy figure, gherkins, brine, dill in 1-litre glass jar  •  18 × 9 × 9 cm
Image courtesy of the artist


Uncollected Works (you win), 2010
Coat check tags from MOMA, Guggenheim, Metropolitan Museum of Art, DIA Beacon, New Gallery, PS1, Whitney Museum of American Art; black and white photograph  •  20 × 90 × 30 cm
Image courtesy of the artist
Self portrait with pickles, 2013
Hand carved enamel-painted alloy figure, gherkins, brine, dill in 1-litre glass jar  •  18 × 9 × 9 cm
Image courtesy of the artist
Just a little bit longer, 2013
Exit sign light box with translucent green vinyl  •  15 × 30 × 12 cm
Image courtesy of the artist
Knot set in stone, 2014
Bronze cast rope, sandstone, bluestone  •  9 × 30 × 9 cm
Image courtesy of of the artist
Please turn over, please (sketch), 2014
Chalk on cast concrete  •  75 × 45 × 9 cm
Image courtesy of the artist