Christopher Orr: The Beguiled Eye (4 stars)

Orr’s postcard-sized paintings capture a mysterious and enigmatic other world

Christopher Orr: The Beguiled Eye

Courtesy of the artist, Hauser and Wirth and Ibid Projects

There is a deceptively simple quality to Christopher Orr’s paintings which only begins to unravel on close scrutiny. At first glance the gallery is smattered with a small number of postcard-sized paintings, all sharing a muted green or brown palette. But step in close to any one and you are drawn into an uncanny world where unexplainable events seem to be taking place.

In some paintings minute figures with their backs turned carry out mysterious activities, such as in 'Silent One' where a man and woman peer with curiosity into a black cave to witness a floating, disembodied male head emerging through the darkness. Other paintings depict only a strange, unsettling atmosphere such as 'No Birds do Sing' where we look through a muddy keyhole into a deep grey fog.

The analytical detail and precision of Orr’s paintings might at first seem methodically planned, but the inclusion of his sketchbooks in the upper gallery reveal a far more expressive mind at work, filled with fluid collages and ink drawings. In fact, Orr explains the process used in all his paintings in the accompanying catalogue, where the paintings evolve on the support rather than being planned out in advance, ‘The canvas becomes like a sketchbook where ideas are worked out.’ Where previously these corrections and ‘mistakes’ would have been covered up, his more recent paintings leave the work’s history just visible in ghostly marks and outlines, adding even more layers of mystery into the enigmatic, private worlds he creates.

Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sat 14 Feb

Christopher Orr: The Beguiled Eye

First solo show in Scotland for this artist whose enigmatic and troubling paintings are based on appropriations of found materials and draw on Old Master techniques.


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