Justin Mortimer’s powerful new paintings reflect upon a world in a state of disorder. Mortimer is an avid observer of the social and political upheaval that defines the international news agenda and these works echo recent events in the US, Ukraine, Venezuela, Syria and Afghanistan, as well as the ongoing Ebola crisis in Africa. Yet Mortimer wrings from this narrative of violence and oppression images of both hope and despair as well as a strange and troubling beauty.
In the painting Der Besucher (2014) ominous figures clad in Hazchem suits are relocated to an idyllic landscape reminiscent of the Swiss Alps. In this and other paintings space is disrupted by plumes of colour produced by smoke flares. Despite Mortimer’s characteristic ambiguity, the suggestion of civil unrest is unavoidable. Such works elide the medical crisis in Africa with the riots in Ferguson, Missouri to visualise a world in which nothing is stable or certain.
The unity of Mortimer’s images keeps on breaking. Elisions of imagery suggest a fragmented and fragmentary reality. This is not just a reflection of the ways in which one’s perception of the contemporary world is a kind of ever-evolving collage of imagery culled from an ongoing overload of print and digital information, but also suggests of the ways in which the very fabric of society is increasingly fractured. The world is constantly shifting, and Mortimer’s paintings hint at the tectonic cracks and shifts appearing in the old world order.
A new monograph on the artist has been published by Parafin and Lecturis, Eindhoven to accompany this exhibition and Mortimer’s exhibition at the Djanogly Art Gallery, Nottingham.