DMU Alumnus Christian Furr Donates Artwork to Joe Orton Statue Appeal

World-renowned artist and DMU alumnus Christian Furr has generously agreed to donate a painting entitled “Mini - Battenberg”, inspired by the memoir of playwright Joe Orton’s sister, to support an appeal for a commemorative statue of the writer.

Christian Furr 1

Since graduating from DMU in 1989 with a First in Fine Art, he has achieved renown in the art world for his prodigious talent and innovative style.  In recognition of his skill, he was personally selected by the Royal Overseas League, aged just 28, to paint an official portrait of the Queen.  This remarkable achievement makes him the youngest artist ever to be afforded the honour.

Christian Furr Queen Portrait

During his career Christian has delighted critics and garnered a following, which includes Sir Michael Caine as well as having his work appear in the National Portrait Gallery and the Saatchi Gallery. 

He has continued to support local efforts around his hometown of Wirral, being appointed the borough’s ‘Ambassador of Culture’ in 2019 and curating the ‘Liverpool Love’ exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool in 2012.

Alongside his work in the North West, Christian has provided philanthropic assistance to De Montfort University.  In 2016 he made a gift of his dynamic painting ‘Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere’ to the university which was displayed in the Kimberlin Library. 

He has continued to demonstrate his support, attending events such as the annual Fine Art Auction and the launch of the DMU Art Network, which showcased the work of honorary alumni artist Brendan Neiland. 

Discussing the event, Christian said: “It was an incredible show. It’s a 50 year retrospective of Brendan’s career and he’s really kindly supporting this new initiative from #DMUforlife which has ultimately been designed to help students.

“DMU provided me with such a vast range of experiences with all kinds of artistic mediums and practices.  I love that there isn’t a single accepted style, but rather a variety of methods that mirror the diverse student body.  The Faculty has retained its inventiveness and I feel a connection between my own time studying and the students today.”

Mini Battenberg on pink FURR 20x21

His latest donation, the painting “Mini - Battenberg” was inspired by the recollections of the late Orton’s sister Leonie who described Joe’s poetic ode surrounding a slice of cake when visiting her. 

Explaining his inspiration, Christian said: “Joe Orton was a huge and sadly short-lived figure in the literary world.  His inventive, quirky and deeply funny writing is able to draw humour from the mundane, such as a simple slice of cake.  His subversive style and anarchic book art have a lasting resonance and I believe influenced artists like Harland Miller and the Connor Brothers.

“I don’t believe Orton ever thought he’d profit from his work, but rather wrote for the sheer pleasure of it.   I think that like all great art, his plays are able to retain relevance to people today and I hope that this statue will bring his work greater recognition today, whilst reflecting his individuality.”

Born and raised in Leicester, Joe Orton became a leading twentieth century playwright. His riotous black comedies - Entertaining Mr Sloane, Loot and What the Butler Saw - won major awards in their day and have since been performed all over the world.   The statue appeal aims to memorialise his work and commemorate the struggles of gay people from before the decriminalisation of homosexuality.  Its supporters include prominent voices such as Sir Ian McKellen, Stephen Fry and Sheila Hancock.

Posted on Monday 9th September 2019

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