AboutMaster Piper is proud to present a solo exhibition of major new works by Justin Mortimer. With a mastery of figurative painting allied to a sophisticated use of more abstract techniques in the service of landscape painting, Mortimer's new works bring the universal themes of suffering and pain to contemporary painting with a gravitas, urgency and profound sense of insight into the barbaric nature of humankind.
A graduate of the Slade School of Art in the early 1990s, Mortimer's career highlights to date include winning first prize in the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery and the East Award from East International in 2004 (selected by Neo Rauch and Gerd Harry Lybke). Mortimer is an accomplished portrait painter, through which he has been earning his living since graduation. Having rarely exhibited his own, non-commissioned works, In Your Own Village presents a formidable body of works that not only demonstrates the range and extent of his talent, but also suggests he is an artist that can be counted among those at the forefront of figurative painting in Britain today.
The new works are not for the faint-hearted. They are powerful, challenging and disturbing paintings depicting the aftermath of the incomprehensible suffering that humans can inflict on their fellow men. Consistently ambiguous and with an acute and complex air of uncertainty, the series references physical and psychological pain, military dictatorships, guerrilla warfare, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity that can be found from the Korean War to the Rwandan genocide, from Afghanistan to Kosovo.
While murder, rape and oppression are themes that are implicit in the works, it remains unclear as to what exactly has been going on. A hillside bunker seems to be the site of a mass grave with some people still alive; a picturesque village appears to have been hit by a mortar; some figures in radiation suits storm through a landscape in the darkness; a man is found hanging in suburban wasteland. These peculiar and affecting scenarios are staged in locations that might otherwise be chocolate box landscapes, injected with a sinister undercurrent and unsavoury narratives.
Always too late to witness the terrible acts that have taken place, the viewer is caught in an uncomfortable limbo, unsure as to whether they are looking from the viewpoint of aggressor or victim, journalist or doctor, neighbour or stranger. Mortimer forces us to consider what it must be like when atrocities are inflicted upon civilians and exposes
us to the fear that violence, inhumane actions and destruction may come to our own towns and villages.
The exhibition is curated by writer, editor and curator Matt Price. Formerly Managing Editor of Flash Art, Milan, and Deputy Editor of ArtReview, London, he recently co-authored a publication on Adrian Ghenie for Hatje Cantz and wrote the chronology of Anish Kapoor's career for his new monograph by Phaidon. In 2008 Price was co-curator of the exhibition Sound in Z at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, for Jeremy Deller, a version of which was presented at the Third Moscow Biennale in 2009. He has been invited to curate an exhibition of British painting at the Prague Biennale 5 in 2011.
A publication has been produced by Master Piper to accompany In Your Own Village, featuring essays by Matt Price and David Trigg, and designed by Modern Activity.