Taking its title from a line in a book on Victorian utopias, is Muddy Eden brings together two ostensibly figurative artists, Hannah Brown and Christopher Orr, who both draw from and play with conventions of art history.
Christopher Orr’s small paintings of ethereal landscapes, often populated by gures, 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 1950’s and 60’s. 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 speci cally 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.
Given how accomplished both artists work appears I thought it important to include a selection of studies and sketches in the exhibition, hopefully giving visitors a chance to see how their ‘ nished’ paintings develop over time. What is not shown, however, is the artists use of photography and even photoshop in the very early stages of their process but I think it’s important to mention how they both merge contemporary methods with traditional practice.
I’d like to thank HDM Gallery, Dalla Rosa, Union Gallery and Bo Lee Gallery for their assistance with this exhibition.
Kris Day Curator