The spectre of death hovers over much of Mortimer’s work, but with paintings such as Family Plot, 2007, the allusion becomes more overt. Working on a much smaller scale, the starting point for this surreal piece was a German military graveyard in Normandy. A backdrop of trees overcast rows of graves marked by small black crosses. In front of these stand several bizarre and macabre figures. Here Mortimer has returned to depicting whole figures, albeit still somewhat blurred and indeterminate. These naked, stooping characters evoke a raw primeval presence; like neolithic cave dwellers they appear to be shuffling around the scene, engaged in some purposeful, yet arcane activity. Painted with a muddy grey palette, the work is saturated with a deathly and disquieting atmosphere. Like all of Mortimer’s recondite paintings, the responsibility of interpreting this idiosyncratic tableau is laid squarely at the foot of the viewer, who is free to project all manner of creative narratives onto the work.
Justin Mortimer: Selected Works 2002-2008
by David Trigg