In Meiro Koizumi's three-channel video installation, The Angels of Testimony (2019), the central frame features an interview with Hajime Kondo about his time as a solider of the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The conversation centres on war crimes perpetrated in China, including the beheading of Chinese prisoners for...
Diana Campbell Betancourt is a curator working predominantly across South and Southeast Asia. Since 2013 she has been the founding artistic director of the Samdani Art Foundation and chief curator of the Dhaka Art Summit in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a transnational art event that has grown in size and scale ever since its first edition in 2012. Backed by...
China, home to 802 million internet users, is subject to sophisticated online censorship. This shrouded state of affairs, unsurprisingly perhaps, serves to reinforce stereotypes around conformity elsewhere. Any realm, digital or otherwise, subject to such strict scrutiny must necessarily be bland and uncritical, right? I was mulling over such...
Justin Mortimer, Cafe Au Lait, 1997, detail, (all images courtesy the artist).
If one were to try and describe the trajectory of the British painter Justin Mortimer (b.1970) it would go something like this: after beginning his career as a social 'insider' who painted the upper echelons of British society, he relaunched himself by painting dark, difficult, and disjointed works. Considering that he has been the subject of three recent solo shows — one in Singapore, another at the University of Nottingham, and one more at Parafinin London — Mortimer risks once again moving to the inside track, a prospect that makes him uncomfortable as he prefers to think of himself as an outsider.
His recent paintings construct a collaged world of inchoate images rendered in Kool-Aid colors. Mortimer understands how to make an image tangible and mysterious at the same time, and also how to use hints of eroticism to add a sense of voyeuristic appeal. His hybrid world gains its energy from the tensions between pleasure and riot, power and terror: it's a tainted place where the unthinkable seems possible or even imminent.
Justin Mortimer (b.1970) is a British artist whose paintings consistently invite us to question the relationship between subject matter and content, beauty and horror, and between figuration and abstraction. While the imagery is almost exclusively pitiless, the texturing of the paint, the play between light and shade and the passages that lead from photo-realist definition to near-abstract formlessness are so sensitively handled as to make the work at least partially redemptive as well as to indicate a key philosophical dimension: the oblique relationship between evidence and interpretation.
Mortimer's new paintings reflect upon a world in a state of disorder. Mortimer is an avid observer of the social and political upheaval that is the staple of the international news agenda and here are echoes of recent events in Ukraine, Venezuela, Syria and Afghanistan. Yet Mortimer wrings from this tortured narrative of violence and oppression images of both hope and despair and well as a strange and troubling beauty.
The unity of Mortimer's images keeps on breaking. Limbs are dislocated, space is disrupted. 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 and layered over and upon our retinal vision, but also a suggestion 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. Put simply, the paintings depict a world in which nothing is stable or certain.
In fact these troubling images are composites variously sourced from the Internet, from medical journals, holiday photos and black and white images of war, collaged on Photoshop before being worked into a painting. Each canvas is built up through layers of paint that are then scraped away and built up again until a fully achieved environment forms. In this, scenes of abasement take place beside a supermarket's plastic curtains, a washing line, some bobbing balloons, swathes of tarpaulin. The disjunctions take them beyond cold-eyed examinations of the atrocities of war and into a timeless, post-moral territory comparable to that marked out by Cormac McCarthy and JG Ballard. Real and imagined events become confused and the trajectory of humanity from barbarism to civilization is left in doubt.
Mortimer's paintings are not reportage or documentation, they are far too allusive and de-specified for that. Instead they represent a powerful and poetic visualisation of contemporary life, in all its grim and magical reality.
Justin Mortimer graduated from the Slade School of Art in 1992 and lives and works in London. He has won several prestigious awards including the EAST Award (2004), NatWest Art Prize (1996) and the BP National Portrait Award (1991).Recent solo exhibitions include Haunch of Venison, London (2012), Mihai Nicodim Gallery, Los Angeles (2011) and Master Piper, London (2010). Recent group exhibitions include How to Tell The Future from the Past, Haunch of Venison, New York (2013), Nightfall, MODEM Centre for Modern and Contemporary Arts, Debrecen, Hungary (2012), MAC Birmingham (2011) and the 2011 Prague Biennial. His work is in numerous private and public collections including the National Portrait Gallery, London, the National Portrait Gallery, Canada, Royal Society for the Arts, Bank of America, NatWest Bank and the Flash Art Museum of Contemporary Art in Trevi, Italy.
COPENHAGEN — Outside Denmark's Louisiana Museum of Modern Art on a recent late-summer morning, a few sunstruck visitors were sprawling on the turf of the sculpture garden, between monumental outdoor works by Alexander Calder and Richard Serra.
This week gave me a chance to consider human intervention in our environment. If Sondra Perry’s opening at the Serpentine uses digital tools to make our dark history extremely contemporary, Open Space Contemporary’s Adventitious Encounters exploits its location to explore our desire for nature in a technologically saturated world. The former...
The newly formed Holt-Smithson Foundation has made its first move to secure the legacy of the pioneering land artist Nancy Holt (1938–2014), better known for safeguarding the work of her husband, Robert Smithson, after he died in 1973 than for promoting her own.
I have the impression that in the Czech Republic education is more classically based than in some other European countries. For example, when it comes to literature, people learn the classics, they know what's what. Is it similar with the teaching of art in the Czech Republic, say compared to here in the UK?Ten or 15 years ago, when I was at the...
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