Visual Collages, Justin Mortimer at The Factory, SE1 (1.2.17)
Daniel P. Carter asked all those questions that I have been wanting to ask Justin Mortimer for years! A great evening. As I expected – enlightening and inspiring. Even though I had met Justin before informally some years ago, the formality of a ‘talk’ in a working gallery space was more thorough – a complete dissection of his work by his most avid followers (Justin is a firm ‘painters painter’…). The talk’s backdrop was against a whole wall of his collages (working reference tools for his paintings) that are part of his process but seen here, can also be seen as artworks in themselves.
Daniel and Justin discussed the ‘visual crunch’ of his collages and how this translated to the slippage and agendas of his paintings. The transference from collage to paint is certainly important to me in my work but it is something that Justin is a master of. This is one reason I am so in awe of his working practice. For me the slippage of the image is part of the interpretation of a final painting. For Justin, he says ‘This is where the magic happens’. The interesting thing to note about Justin’s sources of imagery is that his use of combining images that are seemingly ‘out of context’ and I believe this is what gives us this ‘visual crunch’ – far more visceral seen here as a photographic image. The clash of images/shapes at the collage stage give the work an enigmatic feel that create the hard narrative behind the work. There is clearly an unknown personal narrative also at work here and is in many works self-reflecting but it seems unclear to Justin – a super sub-narrative that is working with his own unconscious.
There are geopolitical and biomorphical concerns here too and a deconstruction of the self squeezed into the imagery through the references to medical surgery. Along with the use of clashing colours are the use of textures within the source of imagery – plastic is a big thing – seen in the use of black bin bags, balloons – its use – to wrap the body, objects and figures to hide. Through the multi-layered collages is seen an aesthetic styling and an emerging of narrative forms, repeated – characters of an unknown stage set. The collage acts as his muse – he edits and re-edits the objects and characters with the backgrounds like a director on a film set. His dissatisfaction with the original collage is played out by reinventing several variations. He mentioned that it translated to 150 collages produced a quarter to produce just 15 paintings!