We are pleased to present ‘Eaten Alive’, a collection of new paintings by the British artist James Mortimer, venturing deep into a surreal imaginary world of idealised nature and unfettered human instincts.
James Mortimer’s paintings describe a tropical land being colonised as an idyllic playground. Nature here is both beautiful and vicious, its arrays of palms trees and open plains interrupted by rumbling volcanos and hungry crocodiles. Amidst them, pockets of buildings seek to tame the land and turn it into an expansive pleasure garden. It is a hallucinatory world where civil restraint falls away and human urges are allowed unrestricted expression, all described in vivid colour and sumptuous painterly hues.
In Mortimer’s world the raw savagery of nature is both ever-present and all-consuming. It soon overpowers the colonisers. As they lounge around in unthinking nakedness as if fresh-landed in the Garden of Eden, animals attack and puncture the ideal while the smoking of volcanos turns into full blown blazes in their houses. Soon, the inhabitants themselves channel its power, attacking beasts and each other with knives and cleavers. And whilst there is always a strong current of humour and innuendo in James’s paintings, there is also a dash of danger.
In this delirious space the constructs of civilisation appear both naive and vulnerable, as if giving visual form to unconscious structures. Mortimer’s architecture is pared down, reminiscent of Medieval painting’s approach to buildings where the image of an edifice alluded to the idea of ‘building’ rather than specific individual erections. They sit in start contrast to the way natural phenomena – plants, bodies, and animals – are described in intense detail, each existing on its own specific terms, independent of its context. Mortimer’s settlements seek to make clearings in this teeming natural environment and to bring order to its wantonness. That they find themselves on fire, their inhabitants driven crazed and violent, speaks of the irresistible power pulsating beneath – the well of organic forces and unconscious instincts that drive the natural world.