Wagner Contemporary is proud to present a new body of work by one of Australia’s finest figurative artists. In Christopher Orchard’s new collection of drawings, the viewer is invited to follow the artist’s suited character — the little bald man or “everyman”— through a series of uncertain and sometimes hazardous events, analogous to the fragility of a precarious moment.
Christopher Orchard draws a parallel between the little bald man’s experience of instability, “from the tilt of a chair to his inverse suspension from a ladder”, to the broader volatility felt collectively in recent times: “It is clear to me that the present is fraught with a sense of both apprehension and wariness about the world. Through seemingly small events, I record the precarity of the bald man’s situation”.
While the artist’s protagonist is often facing a dilemma of sorts, his uncertain outcome gives rise to more questions than answers. Each moment in time appears betwixt and between another calamity — what happens next? — we may ask. Although the full implications of each perilous situation may be hard to determine, we sense his emotions. In Orchard’s words, his “the bald man is full of the fragility of being human”. Within each scenario, we feel his states of “anxiety, uncertainty, doubt, fragility vulnerability, solitude, hope and wonder” (Margot Osborne). We watch him grappling with life — and observe something of human nature itself — when the events of life feel to be just out of our control.
For Orchard, the medium of drawing is a vehicle for expressing emotion in an intuitive and affective way. Each work in 'Precarious' contains the hallmarks of fine draughtsmanship, while the materiality of his mark-making in charcoal and pastel intensifies effect. As the artist explains, full focus is applied “to the mark, tone and modelling that expose variance in the representation of the protagonist”.
“Through his mastery of drawing at the level of both language and skill, Orchard is today esteemed as one of the finest Australian artists of his generation”—Margot Osborne, 'Christopher Orchard: The Uncertainty of the Poet' (Wakefield Press).
Christopher Orchard has been exhibiting in solo and group exhibitions for over 40 years and is the former Head of Drawing and a founding Lecturer of the Adelaide Central School of Art. He has been short listed for numerous awards, including the prestigious Dobell Prize for Drawing (AGNSW). In 2017 Orchard was the feature artist for the South Australian Living Artists Festival (SALA).