Chris Otley produces crisp and meticulous works on paper in graphite, often on a large scale, with a focus on natural history.
He has an ongoing interest in 17th and 18th century travel journals and anatomical draughtsmanship (in particular the work of George Stubbs). Investigating the connections between the two formed the basis of his MA thesis at the Courtauld Institute of Art (2006), which was awarded full funding by the Arts & Humanities Research Council.
His work is increasingly interested in Norman Bryson's concept of 'rhopography' - the study of the seemingly mundane, humble, minor and trivial. His drawings present views of insect specimens, as observed through a microscope: the compound eye of a locust; the fore-legs of a praying mantis; amber inclusions; the shed exoskeletons (exuviae) of a variety of growing insects – micro details that can be read simultaneously as macro landscapes, perhaps even lunar or planetary in scale.
His most recent series of drawings explore the merging of studies of invasive species with hand-drawn period maps, charting aspects of their social history.
The great microscope pioneer, Robert Hooke, wrote:
"It being a general rule in Nature’s proceedings, that where she begins to display any excellency, ifthe subject be further search’d into, it will manifest, that there is not less curiosity in those parts which our single eye cannot reach, than in those which are more obvious.” (‘Micrographia’, 1665)