James Mortimer


As part of SOLO Contemporary at the British Art Fair 2023, we are pleased to present a solo exhibition by the British artist James Mortimer, with a series of new paintings describing his distinctive world of raw human impulses and moral ambiguity.

James Mortimer’s paintings depict a luminous land of unfettered, uncomplicated freedom. Fishing, farming, swimming, and rowing: they epitomise the country life in the rudest of health. Beneath this beautiful ideal, however, his characters reveal themselves to be just as base as the animals, as beings utterly governed by their instinctive urges.

This new group of paintings presents the development of mankind as it grows to impose itself on nature. Humans cultivate the land, living simple lives surrounded by sheep, dogs, and horses. But dark undercurrents and the threat of violence simmer beneath every surface. A man ominously pets a horse with a blade in his hand, standing over skeletal remains both equine and human. A swimmer stands blissfully unaware amongst a shoal of fish while behind him a naked man grapples with a woman on a boat. A pregnant mother and her child appear next to a crocodile protecting her nest, suggesting parallel maternal responses to impending attack. In James’s surreal world, though humans make progress, their primitive instincts prevent absolute superiority over the beasts.

There is also a saucy sense of humour in James’s works. The wholesome feel of folkloric moral fables is peppered with rude frivolities reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch. Each picture is rife with symbolism. Salacious sprouting palms suggest eroticism, often tied with the presence of mindless violence. His cast, only sometimes clothed, appears in conflict with an array of beasts that mirror the unthinking animalism of man’s desires. These paintings present a new take on the Garden of Earthly Delights, fruit of a fecund and exuberant imagination where humans follow their instinctual urges in blithe complacency and an absent moral framework. In his elaborate depictions of man’s pure beginnings, by stripping them bare of societal standards, James explores the crude reality of humanity’s instinctive behaviour.

The British Art Fair will take place at the Saatchi Gallery in London from 28 September – 1 October. Please see their website for visiting details.  To register for the PDF preview (available shortly before the fair opens) please email the gallery or register via the ‘Request PDF Catalogue’ link above.


James Mortimer | Boat Triptych
James Mortimer
Boat Triptych
James Mortimer | Island with Mountains
James Mortimer
Island with Mountains
James Mortimer | Palm Balcony
James Mortimer
Palm Balcony
James Mortimer | Farm
James Mortimer
James Mortimer | Horse Cliff
James Mortimer
Horse Cliff
James Mortimer | Mountain Crocodile
James Mortimer
Mountain Crocodile

Installation Images

James Mortimer

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