Robert Orchardson

June 2002

Publication: The Sunday Herald

Robert Orchardson

News from Nowhere

Changing Room, Stirling


A quiet corner of shopping arcade in Stirling seems an unlikely location for a gallery dedicated to showing cutting edge, contemporary art.  Yet it’s here, operating on a shoestring budget and a great deal of good will, that the Changing Room manages to pull off some shows of remarkably high quality.


A case in point is the current exhibition by Dundee-based Robert Orchardson whose collection of work, ‘News From Nowhere’ takes its title from an story by the 19th century critic, William Morris.  Morris imagines a world devoid of technological progress which has regressed to a pre-industrial age.


This idea is at the centre of Orchardson’s work which explores the tension between the real and imagined future.  Orchardson does this by using images from cinematic works such as ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and transforming them into a combination of painted and sculptural installations.


The works are often big, bold and visually highly arresting, making a grab for the senses and prompting a sense of curiosity.  They invite questions but also somehow avoid pretentiousness, obscurantism or any form of exclusivity.  On one large untitled work made from MDF and moulded plywood, a painted beam of light - as if refracted through a prism - seems to shine from one corner to another.  The form of the work suggests those ‘futurist’ designs from the ‘sixties which turned out, in reality, not to be futuristic at all.   But the painted motif clearly refers to a complex, slightly nerdy, world of imagery from science fiction, where the theme of light itself is a major component.


Orchardson takes a similar  approach in a 10 metre long wall painting which takes as its starting point a scene from Spielberg’s ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ where a group of characters walk towards a central light source.  Despite or perhaps because of its simplicity, the effect, like that of all the other works here, is eerily seductive.