Chris Italy

Chris Orr studied art and design at Prahran Institute and graphic design at Swinburne in the 1980s. In the 1990s, after rocking around in nightclubs, he started a graphic design practice, Beige, strongly anchored in street art.

Chris believes art can be created form the most mundane of objects – in part derived from working in graphic design, where you are often called upon to polish a turd. Given a subject, Chris storyboards it into the third dimension.

Chris’s first venture into the art world came about when a friend gave him a plastic doll’s head and challenged him to ‘make art out of it’. The result was a series of oversize digital manipulations baked on canvas and paper. Melancholy and mesmerising, they contained a dark beauty. Displayed only in the foyer of an architect’s firm in Sydney in 2001, the series was created and sold to collectors in Melbourne, Sydney, Berlin and Osaka.

Years on, colleagues and friends prodded Chris to produce a new series. In 2014, with the purchase of a skull from a medical supplies store, this current exhibition began to develop. Although the obvious parallel of birth and death is not deliberate, there is a tangible dialogue between the two objects.

Possessing voluminous qualities similar to the plastic doll’s head, the skull proved a more unyielding object. El Dorado, the corner piece work for the Bone Idol exhibition, proved the most challenging. Shot and coloured with light over 100 times, it was an unyielding object, taking many hours to make it submissive with light and colour.

Bestowing life on inanimate objects has become a theme. To become fixated on the one object; to extract as much out of it by the use of light and colour and by trawling and navigating it close up; reinterpreting it in a myriad of ways. The object is obsessively scanned and photographed to achieve optimum light and shade and to reveal previously unrecognised terrains. The result is carnivalised confection of candified decay.

The digitised image is rinsed, saturated, drowned in colour before being blanketed in a collage of decorative stencils and architectural motifs. The final works are pigment prints to archival rag paper or premium semi gloss, printed by JCP Fini then float mounted and framed in Tasmanian oak by Greg von Menge framers. See production images here.

In 2018, Chris began work towards a new show, Conventicle. Exhibited at fortyfivedownstairs in May 2019 to enormous success, the show was described “an unorthodox assemblage of Renaissance and Victorian engravings blanketed in everyday detritus, modern ephemera and classical stencils”.

Works on C-Type were printed by CPL Digital, and those in archival ink on 100% cotton rag were printed by JCP Fini. All framing was by Fini, including for the first time were works presented in bespoke coloured acrylic frames.

Conventicle was further described as “a diet of ever-changing colour, with velvet hues, flourescent outbursts and unexpected complexions. Old soft drink cans, disregarded packaging and discarded motherboards are expertly re-assembled in an exciting declamatory recitation of social archaeology.”