HdM Gallery is delighted to present “Xie Lei / Christopher Orr”, a two-person exhibition, of Chinese-born artist Xie Lei and British artist Christopher Orr.

The exhibition will intersperse the work of the two painters, conjuring a dialogue between them grounded in their shared, quasi-Romantic sensibility.

Both artists create figurative paintings drawn from and set in dreamlike spaces. The backgrounds in the works of both artists are hazy, indistinct and ambiguous. The atmospheres in Orr’s paintings evoke the painting effects seen in the skies of J.M.W. Turner and Caspar David Friedrich – soft, uncertain passages of light built up through layers of translucent washes and pigments. In Xie Lei’s luminous, almost neon paintings, the backgrounds are often flat and abstract or generically natural; water, mountains, vegetation. Mostly the spaces in the paintings by both artists, are shallow, sometimes even claustrophobically so, frustrating expectations of pictorial depth and foregrounding the subjects, placing them, as it were, dramatically, centre stage.

Archetypes, stereotypes and symbols populate the works. The people in Orr’s paintings are, judging from their clothes, visitors from 1950’s Britain. They look safe and wholesome and uncannily in the wrong place - accidental tourists in Orr’s phantasmagoric creations – dutifully starting into sublime voids. In Xie Lei’s works the humans and animals are more anonymous, more purely archetypal, figures powerfully evoked, but without individual features – ghost forms his nether world – compelling, dark, threatening even. Like dreams these works are deeply allusive, full of opaque meanings.

In an age in thrall to empires being built in digital space the works of Xie Lei and Orr and timely reminders that we all, already, carry virtual worlds within us. They are powerful messages sent to us from the infinite lands of the imagination.

This show will be Xie Lei’s first exhibition in the UK.