press release

Christopher Orr belongs to the most impressive among contemporary painters. As the title Light Shining Darkly evokes, Orr's paintings show locations and scenes where something seemingly mystical, supernatural, dark or sinister happens, or you, as the viewer, presage something like this may happen. An important source of information for his creative process proves to be his images archive, consisting of old magazines—especially National Geographic from the 1930s to the '70s—and books. Orr also draws on the "old masters" of painting like Tiepolo, Vermeer, Bosch, Hals, van Eyck, Caravaggio and others. His passion for details in the works of his role models finds its way into his own paintings. He quotes, as it were, a certain selected point from the entire historical quote. His archive also includes thematic collections of images which are grouped, for example, into the scientific, the mystical or the spherical. The landscape scenes in which protagonists act are characterised by special lighting effects. Time and again it is the specific use of lighting effects, which at first glance give the motifs already a twist towards the uncanny. The way in which the human being is located in the landscape provides connecting factors for the philosophy of the sublime. In light of the unattainability and size of nature, humans feel small and overwhelmed.

Laurent Grasso's work, which uses various forms of media and includes videos, painting, photography, neon works as well as sculpture and architecture, is characterised by a strong narrative component. The topics taken up are based on scientific observations, astronomy, primal human fears, superstitions, science fiction and mythologies. The exhibition at Kunsthaus Baselland takes up the idea of a journey through different times, topics and historical and pseudo-historical moments also architecturally. Like in a journey through time, we see the impact of miracles and disasters, of mystical traditions and the effects of superstition and delusion. Grasso leads us to the limits of reality and fiction, faith and knowledge. We dive into a maze and leave it surely different than we were when we entered it. In a series of recent works, the artist focuses on disasters and miracles. In paintings with a wide brass frame and a date and a painting each tell of various events: The Basel earthquake of 1356 was regarded as one of the strongest in Switzerland, which claimed many lives and even caused parts of the Basel Minster to collapse. Another image takes up the earthquake of 1456 in Naples and a at Lake Lucerne in Lucerne. Juxtaposed to the catastrophes is a work that refers to the miracle of Fatima. For Grasso this miracle, for which there is no scientific evidence, stands in a series of events that have been created in history again and again, to keep alive an apparatus of control and power.

With Commercials, Mosques & Ceramics, Kunsthaus Baselland presents the first institutional solo exhibition of the German artist Manuel Graf in Switzerland. Graf's work consists primarily of film projects, which are usually presented in the form of installations, but is also supplemented by object arrangements and assemblages. As regards content, he is interested in the great questions of human existence, such as the development of mankind, or the origin of art, architecture and craft, and last but not least, he questions how we live as human beings, what entices us and convinces us visually. His solo show at the gallery spaces of the is accessible through two entrances: a staircase leading to the room in which the latest film let music play?, 2012, is shown in an installation setting. The other staircase leads to the billboard-like video installation commercials for Jan Albers, 2013, and a presentation from neolithic memory stick, 2012–13.

Christopher Orr: Light Shining Darkly
Laurent Grasso: Disasters and Miracles
Manuel Graf: Commercials, Mosques & Ceramics

Sabine Schaschl