ART FOR SALE: Chris Orr @ Jill George Gallery
CHRIS ORR asked Michael Palin to write the essay that accompanied his 2003 catalogue, The Disguise Factory. You can see why. Orr once described his work as 'the conjunction of the deadly serious with the kaleidoscopic weirdness of the world' " a quality, of course, essential to a Pythonesque vision. It's obvious what Palin likes about Orr's wacky prints, lithographs, etchings and drawings: his subversive, fairground view of the world. It's as if Bruegel has teamed up with the children's illustrator Edward Ardizzone. The result is irreverent, yet loaded with nostalgia.
Orr's topographical view of Paris, 1898 " a diptych in watercolour and collage " has everything, including a man in a flying machine. There are balloonists, marching soldiers, a Gigi- style little girl with a hoop, an elephant in a cage, and, of course, views of Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. And through the open windows of Pigalle we can catch voyeuristic glimpses of numerous lusty sexual encounters of the ooh-la-la variety. This is Feydeau farce in graphics.
It is astonishing that Orr has never been invited to illustrate a children's book. His images bring to mind those much-loved tales by Kathleen Hales about Orlando the Marmalade Cat, with their wonderful out-of-the-corner- of-the-eye observations. Orr's topsy-turvy, ink- and-watercolour London can cram, it seems, the whole history of the city into one panoramic view of the Thames. Tradition and modernity rub shoulders; there are muggers and tarts, tourists and bus conductors all strutting their stuff against the crowded backdrop of St Paul's, Tower Bridge and the Gherkin. The river is chock-a-block with sailing ships and steam craft.
Orr has talked about 'a Golden Age of what you absorb'. His images come from the pre-computer, largely pre-TV world of the Fifties, with its comics and annuals. There are echoes of the playroom, of the garden camp and the dressing-up box. …