Taking its title from a line in a book on Victorian Utopias, This Muddy Eden brings together two ostensibly figurative artists, Hannah Brown and Christopher Orr, who both draw from and play with conventions of art history. To the casual eye, both artists, work could appear wholly conventional, dark figurative landscapes that wouldn’t look out of place hung next to a John Constable or J.M.W. Turner. Viewers that invest a little more time, however, will find something more perplexing and unusual in their works.
Christopher Orr’s small paintings of ethereal landscapes, often populated by figures, draw stylistic influence from the likes of Turner and Casper David Friedrich yet seek to blur the distinction between reality and illusion. Images in Orr’s work are regularly taken from old books or magazines from the 1950s and 60s. Pages from the National Geographic are positioned next to children’s illustrations and frequently retain their actual size, creating extraordinary, surreal juxtapositions and an abandonment of scale all suggesting a meaning that could lie beyond the experience of the viewer, or allow them to create their own narrative. Orr explores our need to analyse and interpret images by using loaded and specifically nostalgic motifs, yet offers us no conclusion.
Hannah Brown’s canvases also appear embedded in the legacy of traditional English landscape painting yet, here again, there is a twist. These are not the grand vistas one might expect to see in landscapes of this size but rather quiet, forgotten corners of parkland in London or Devon. Nor are they literal depictions, as Brown will add and remove elements to ensure no obvious signs of human life remain. This absence of humanity creates a foreboding silence for the viewer. Brown’s sculptural work will shift your interpretations further from the traditional whilst still toying with its conventions. Made to appear ceramic, these organically shaped abstract works also incorporate elements such as liberty print or curtain tassels and, especially when coupled with her canvases, they comment on our desire to bring the illusion of nature into our homes.
With thanks to Union Gallery, HDM Gallery, Bo Lee Gallery and dalla Rosa.
Christopher Orr (b. 1967, Helensburgh, Scotland) graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design with a bachelor’s degree in 2000, then studied at the Royal College of Art and received a master’s degree in 2003. Orr’s works have been exhibited widely, including in a solo show “A Stone Walks Slowly Under A Cloud” at La Borie, Solignac in France in 2019, ‘The Beguiled Eye’ at Talbot Rice Gallery in University of Edinburgh, Scotland in 2013. “Light Shining Darkly” at Kunsthaus Baselland in 2013, another one “Christopher Orr”at the Hauser and Wirth, Zürich in 2010. Notable group exhibitions including “Foncteur d’oubli” at FRAC ile-de-Paris in 2019, “No New Things Under the Sun” at the Royal Academy (London U.K., 2010), “2007 Old School” at the Hauser and Wirth, Zürich in 2007, another one “London in Zürich” curated by Gregor Muir in 2005, Tate Triennial in 2006, “(…) The Duck Was Still Alive” at CAC Meymac in France in 2005 and “Ideal Worlds” at Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt Germany in 2005. Orr lives and works in London.
Hannah Brown (b. 1977, Salisbury, Wiltshire) graduated from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design (BA Hons Sculpture 1999) and the Royal College of Art (MA Sculpture 2006). Recent solo exhibitions include: Nocturnes, Cross Gallery, Dublin, 2017; Lain fallow for too Long, dalla Rosa gallery, London, 2017; A Lane to the Land, at 71 Blandford Street, 2015, and The Winter Girls, Milton Keynes Arts Centre, 2015. Selected group exhibitions include: The London Open 2018, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2018; The Waiting Room curated by Karen David, Wimbledon Space, London, 2018; Landing, Kristian Day at Herrick Gallery, London, 2016; Marmite Painting Prize 2016. Her work is held in public and private collections within the UK and internationally, including the V&A, London, Cleveland Clinic, Ohio and Office of Public Works, Ireland. In 2012 Brown was shortlisted for John Moores Painting Prize and in 2014 and 2015 for the East London Painting Prize. Brown lives and works in London