Antipodes and antiquity come together Roger Mortimer’s fantastical landscapes. These are metaphorical stories of navigation and transformation drawing on Aotearoa’s dual histories. Immediately recognisable maps of the New Zealand coast represent pre-colonisation habitation with European place names replaced by Māori names -some well-known, others marking lesser known places, mountains, rivers and events. This indigenous terrain is populated with 2000 year old Christian concepts of heaven and hell with imagery drawn from medieval illustrated manuscripts by the Italian poet Dante.
Mortimer has been described as a contemporary visual mythologist. The strange and surreal juxtaposition of recognisable shipping maps with ancient European imagery points to the timelessness, universality and topicality of an exploration of the moral frameworks that shape social thinking, beyond beliefs in heaven and hell. To this end, the compass form of a map takes on the appearance of mandala, suggesting the need for guidance in the spiritual as well as material world.
Mortimer has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland. In 2014, he won the Paramount Award in the Wallace Art Awards and a six-month residency at the International Studio and Curatorial Programme in New York. In 2017, a survey show of selected works from the past 20 years was shown at the Pataka Art Museum in Wellington and the University of Auckland Gus Fisher Gallery.