"I stuttered my way through Art School, trying everything. Luckily I was there in a golden age. No fees, and we were taught skills like drawing, design, colour and printing. When I began my post graduate studies at the Royal College of Art I recognised what kind of artist I was. My work is a cocktail of satire, observation and imagination. I have been called a “Social Surrealist”. Painting, printmaking and writing have been my way of life ever since." - Chris Orr
Chris Orr is a narrative artist whose work ranges across a variety of subjects and ideas which include his speculations about the myths and lives of people such as John Ruskin, Albrecht Dürer, William Blake and Kurt Schwitters, to a fascination with the physical and social nature of the modern city. The most recent work often derives from painting and drawing on location. His work is packed with detail and rewards the viewer with interesting surprises. He is a natural anarchist and shows no compunction in putting a cricket bat into both Dürer‘s studio and Ruskin’s room. Besides a powerful painterly preoccupation with the world as he sees it; he fits into an English and European tradition of graphic satire and commentary. He engages with contemporary life and a sense of how the past has shaped us. Those who collect his work, and there are many, talk of a life-long engagement with his world contained within the pictures.
Although a lot of his work has been produced as original prints in traditional mediums, drawing and painting are a key part of his output. London has been his core subject for most of his career but new opportunities in the 1990s led to work on Shanghai, Tokyo and New York.
Chris has always loved those narratives which are culturally engrained in us, like Bible stories and nursery rhymes because they give a golden opportunity to the artist to directly open a dialogue with the viewer. Both his recent works “The Princess has a pea” (she too has a cricket bat) and “The Prodigal Son” exploit a degree of foreknowledge before taking us into new territory.
Chris started making prints in his twenties, and discovered the power of the multiple to communicate. A medium like etching extended and enhanced his drawing, opening up new possibilities. Lithography was a slow starter, but after a difficult apprenticeship he began to revel in its freedom. Recently, silkscreen and engraving have begun to play a part. Printmaking is a way of taking his thoughts into a published public domain. The relationship between printmaking and books is very strong. The print is like a page and in much of his printed output there is a hidden text. He invites people to 'read' his work as well as to look at it.