Craig Murray-Orr documents self-imposed exile in the wilderness (3 stars)

Craig Murray-Orr

New Zealand-born artist captures magnificent isolation

There’s a sense of magnificent isolation as you go walkabout in New Zealand-born Craig Murray-Orr’s first show for a decade, that says much about self-imposed exile in the wilderness. Both Henry David Thoreau’s novel Walden and the sprawl of Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur that map out some barren topography of the soul, their three-dimensional splodges of purple-grey and orange-green hues lighting up 57 varieties of desolate science-fiction landscape that silently hum with the voices of the ancients. Only the clouds or streams of black shooting through the night sky suggest any kind of movement beyond the raging calm below.

Three oversized Victorian rifles carved from rich mahogany guard both floors, their edges smoothed into undulating curves, so even the spaces where the triggers would be become circular voids resembling standing stones in miniature. The largest, ‘Tribute to Florence Baker’, honours the crack-shot wife of explorer Samuel Baker, the notches on her belt acknowledging her single-mindedness as much as Murray-Orr’s. This is borne out even more in a new work, ‘A Breath of Wind’. Again carved from mahogany, the surface of this large wall hanging displays a relief of seven clumps of grass blowing in the wind. The fact that it took Murray-Orr a monumental seven years to make gives a clue to the absolute power of stillness, where natural forces are only noticeable when at their most forebodingly fragile.

Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sat 26 Mar

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