Reflecting upon a world in a state of disorder, Mortimer’s new collection invites his audience to consider the relationship between beauty and horror as well as that between figuration and abstraction. He mixes clearly outlined figures of almost photo-realist definition with distinctly abstract elements.
Mortimer’s work focusses on the present moment and responds to recent developments in the US, Calais, the Ukraine, West Africa, Syria and Afghanistan. His pieces are formed from composite images which combine pictures sourced online with material from old books and magazines before being worked into a final painting.
Several of his new works include richly coloured patterns which imitate found images of cracked plasma screens. Through the inclusion of such motifs, Mortimer addresses not only the ways in which we consume news and imagery through the screen but also highlights the difficulty of differentiating between medium and message.
It Is Here (2016), the large painting that gives the exhibition its title, focusses on two figures dislocated in a dark landscape which could at once be the closing moments of a festival or a scene from a refugee camp. Another large canvas Zona (2016) places mysterious hazmat suit-clad figures from the recent Ebola crisis amongst a dark forest lit with bright flares and plumes of smoke drawn from imagery of riots in Ferguson, Missouri. In Fugue (2016-17) Mortimer locates the viewer in two spaces simultaneously. An interior piled with books and papers and an exterior scene crowded with looming trees compete for space on the canvas. Together, Mortimer’s work suggests that the present state of global instability is drawn from many sources - as is his inspiration.
As a collection, It Is Here represents the modern world. It is not a pleasant vision, though Mortimer finds extraordinary moments of beauty in passages of paint depicting smoke flares, the texture of plastic, the colours of flesh or the richness of the night sky.
It Is Here is on display at Parafin from 30 March - 20 May.
Image: Justin Mortimer, Zona, 2016.