‘What is an artist?’ and ‘What is art?’, asks French artist Hubert Duprat.

He conducts experiments—not necessarily to test hypotheses—but for their own sake and for the sense of wonder induced by the results. He employs materials ranging from the rare and precious (gold, pearls, precious gems) to the man-made and everyday (polystyrene and modelling clay). Most famously, he once patented a process for making live aquatic insects decorate their silk body-cases with gold spangles and jewels instead of twigs and sand. Thus provoking more burning questions: ‘Who owns ideas?’ and ‘Who owns nature?’

The experiments of Duprat—a self-taught and self-professed amateur—have us intrigued. Which is why we’ve brought him to Mona for his first exhibition in Australia. Duprat’s approach to making art resists neat compartmentalisation, with his work plumbing the ripe borderlands between artistry and science. You can expect (among other things, mind you) an evocation of prehistoric symbolism and technical adaptation, as artistic expression meets rationality head-on.

Curated by Olivier Varenne, Jane Clark and Nicole Durling

Both root and fruit A la fois la racine et le fruit, Hubert Duprat
Both root and fruit (À la fois, la racine et le fruit), 1997–98, Hubert Duprat
Like a glove (Comme un gant) (detail), 2003–5, Hubert Duprat
Untitled, Hubert Duprat
Untitled, 2008, Hubert Duprat

Header image: Caddis worm cases (Fourreaux des Trichoptères), 1980–2013, Hubert Duprat