Orpen & Whyte express in their drawings and words a feeling known to the pair very well – the shared kinship of obsession, fanship and adoring love.
Their most recent paroxysm of infatuated worship, for Yorkshire-born wordsmith Jake Thackray, has served as the impetus for a whole swathe of sketches and scrawled sentences dealing with the feeling of shared obsession. Naturally, these pieces take the form of some of their favourite bygone faces; film stars and comedians and singers and other handsome ghosts. Namely Rik Mayall, Ian Dury, Buster Keaton, and George Michael.
Harkening back to heart-adorned sketches in the back of schoolbooks, whispered words in dimly lit bedrooms, and desperately embarrassing tumblr blogs, these drawings embody fan-love and in particular, the kind of love young women have for old men, dead men and forgotten men. They speak to the struggle these women face as they grow older, soon finding themselves ashamed and blushing, and their ghosts pushed under the bed. The women who want to swoon but instead sermonise, writing essays rather than the love-letters they truly crave to share. The urge to be a critic in contrast to the Teenage Girl. Women who want to speak but can only sputter out the most academic compliments. But, love is academic, and academia is loving! The two are entwined like ingredients in soup, and it is this very indescribable soup of feeling that is celebrated in this work. The Deadness is important too, for it is about the joy of finding bygone moments and keeping them for ourselves. It is about sifting through history in search of handsome boys and handsomer stories; collecting bits of them we can source immortalised in images, footage, and then replicating for ourselves (and for him too of course). It is about secret thoughts in quiet bedrooms, spoken hushed, to oneself in the dark.
Orpen & Whyte are a pair of artist-writers collaborating in their love of ghosts, ampersands and making work from the debris of collective memory. Often exploring traditional or historical means of making, their work takes the form of writings, drawings and sometimes a cocktail of the two. They frequently explore the past, and the feelings that arise from searching, sifting through bygone histories in search of nothing in particular, but ecstatic when they find it. Their work stirs together research and sentiment, at once academic and maudlin. It is also silly, sexy and soppy. As are Orpen & Whyte.
The pair studied BA Drawing and BA Painting respectively at Camberwell College of Arts, before discovering what they really wanted to do was write together (among other things). They graduated in 2020 and spent two years creating work via paper aeroplanes to and from their separate lockdown locations, but are now happily spilling ink all over their joint base in London.
Orpen can be found on the web here and on Instagram here. Whyte can be found on the web here and on Instagram here. The pair have a joint Instagram account, which can be found here.