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Craig Murray-Orr

Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh until March 26th
3 stars
There’s a sense of magnificent isolation as you go walkabout in New
Zealand born Craig Murray-Orr’s first show for a decade, that says much
about self-imposed exile in the wilderness. Both Henry David Thoreau’s
novel ‘Walden’ and the sprawl of Jack Kerouac’s ‘Big Sur’ spring to
mind as you pace around the twenty small landscape paintings that map
out some barren topography of the soul, their three-dimensional
splodges of purple-grey and orange-green hues lighting up fifty-seven
varieties of desolate science-fiction landscape that silently hum with
the voices of the ancients. Only the clouds or streams of black
shooting through the night sky suggest any kind of movement beyond the
raging calm below.

Three oversize Victorian rifles carved from rich mahogany guard both
floors, their edges smoothed into undulating curves, so even the spaces
where the triggers would be become circular voids resembling standing
stones in miniature. The largest, ‘Tribute to Florence Baker,’ honours
the crack-shot wife of explorer Samuel Baker, the notches on her belt
acknowledging her single-mindedness as much as Murray-Orr’s. This is
borne out even more in a new work, ‘A Breath of Wind.’ Again carved
from mahogany, the surface of this large wall-hanging displays a relief
of seven clumps of grass blowing in the wind. The fact that it took
Murray-Orr a monumental seven years to make gives a clue to the
absolute power of stillness, where natural forces are only noticeable
when at their most forebodingly fragile.

The List, February 2011

ends

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