Brought up in Helensburgh, a historically significant seaside town on the Argyll and Bute coastline of western Scotland, Orr has an implicit understanding of the innate contradictions between 19th and 20th century cultural realms that has influenced his painting until now. As a prosperous location to a wealthy class that could escape the increasing discomforts of industrialisation in nearby Glasgow, the town’s rich history of 19th century painting and architecture includes Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House and the portrait of Lady Helen of X, the woman after which the town is named.
These tendencies are summed up by Artforum’s Michael Wilson: ‘Christopher Orr’s dark, diminutive oil paintings seem at first glance to have been salvaged from some alternate past. Employing an earthy palette of browns, reds and ochres, and building surfaces on which areas of dry, scraped-back pigment are juxtaposed with richer, fresher looking passages, the Scottish artist conjures a dramatic lost world in which characters, scenes, and objects culled from popular mid-century print media seem to have strayed into the sublime landscape visions of a nineteenth Century Romantic’. (2008). Caoimhin Mac Giolla Leith, a respected scholar of Celtic and Folklore at Trinity College, Dublin, noted perceptively in the same year that Orr’s work operates in a grand tradition from one ‘oft- quoted’ name (Caspar David Friedrich) to the next (J.M.W. Turner), but it is in the haunting vein of his thrift-store oddity that permeates work that is arguably the more memorable and affecting quality. A determined urge to channel his immensely skilled romantic figuration is the brooding prism by which Orr depicts our current inconsistencies.
Christopher Orr was born in Helensburgh, Scotland in 1967. He studied Fine Art at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee (2000) and received an MA from the Royal College of Art, London in 2003. , He now lives and works in London. His work came to the wide attention of international curators with exhibitions at Hauser & Wirth in Zürich and the Third Tate Triennial London. He took part in institutional exhibitions at The Royal Scottish Academy Edinburgh, the Royal Academy London, the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Witte de With Rotterdam and Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. Recent solo institutional shows were held at Kunsthaus Baselland Basel, the 54th Venice Biennale, CAPC Musée d’Art Contemporain Bordeaux and Kunsthalle Brandts in Odense. He was represented by Hauser & Wirth and Ibid.