Roger Mortimer’s map paintings chart worlds that are at once both recognisable and strange — visionary topographies in familiar geographies. They are metaphorical stories of navigation and transformation, drawing on 14th century illustrated manuscripts of the famous poem The Divine Comedyby the Italian poet Dante. Mortimer has been described as a contemporary visual mythologist. In his luminous fantastical landscapes, we see beauty and barbarity, horror and hope, sinners and saints. The strange and surreal juxtaposition of recognisable shipping maps of the New Zealand coast 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.
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.
Morts Reports is a pseudonym employed by painter Roger Mortimer to present his digital practice. Operating in a space between the real and the fictional, the images have their genesis in surf cam images that constantly monitor wave and weather conditions at popular surf beaches around New Zealand. Mort, the lifelong keen surfer, regularly checks these webcams. Mort, the artist, is called to play with the imagery reviewed almost daily. Screenshots, complete with their download dates, are put through a series of translations using various mobile phone applications including OCR (Optical Character Recognition,) Google Translate and a Font app. New visual forms created by the confused aps, not designed to interpret raw visual data, are then imposed by Mort back into the original seascape. The aps also provide the texts that become the titles of the works – random, poetic, prescient and sometimes with a cultural specificity that reflects the language chosen to read the scene. The results are of our world and not; they present a virtual reality at once sublime, enigmatic, alien and strangely cinematic. Shown first on Instagram, they have more recently been printed for exhibition.