Justin Mortimer – ‘Kult’ @ Parafin

Contemporary and Old Art Reviews

Justin Mortimer – ‘Kult’ @ Parafin

Postby CAP » Tue Jun 16, 2015 2:37 pm

22 May – 27 June 2015

Justin’s back! An artist I have a bit of a soft spot for and rambled on about at some length a couple of years ago, re-appears at a new gallery: Parafin. Is Parafin good enough for our little Juzzy-Wuzzy? Is it hot enough? Well, all things considered, probably yeah. ;)

This year’s show – ‘Kult’ – pressing a dubious taste in German titles – is accompanied by a slim monograph published by the gallery and follows a show at the Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham University. So there’s a bit of momentum there, props to Ben Tufnell (of Parafin). And then there’s an unexpected interview from earlier this month on Brooklyn site Hyperallergic, bizarrely conducted via Skype, while Justin was in NYC (so why couldn’t they just interview him in London, then?) Hyperallergic rarely touches upon the British scene, interestingly. Whatever; word is out. Justin’s still at it – the darkness, the disjunction and the stark n-n-nakedness. What is new is more of a rave/counter-culture/travellers vibe to nocturnal rural frolics, rather than hideous medical treatments or ominous industrial abuse. There are still remnants of this in Kult, but the sense is that they are no longer foremost. The transition has hardly been abrupt though, there are works from 2011, such as Perimeter, that feature his clusters of balloons as markers for some furtive camp in the woods. But the balloons have been augmented with bright smoke flares more recently, and works like Parasol (2014) are less like some arcane rite or protest than a rave going wrong. At some level the two are compatible I suppose and certainly the feeling of mysterious events, partly scary, partly fun carries over. The smaller studies of disfigured heads I found less successful, basically because they are just too literal. We’re not talking about possible distortions glimpsed through some painting or photographic process – they are just deft little studies in disfigurement, which in the context of the rest of the work seems a little flat-footed – not enough mystery, ambiguity.

Interestingly, the colours to the smoke flares sometimes feel like hand-tinting on a black and white photo for some reason – the chromatics not quite aligning with tonalities. But generally the treatment is heavier and brushy – it’s not as if glazes were just floated over a tonal background or anything but it does give the colour a sort of forced liveliness, a distance. I take it from Justin’s remarks in the Hyperallergic interview these are supposed to be lighter, perhaps more whimsical pictures. Certainly the troops in the bizarre protective clothing have diminished - that helps. But at the same time you know Justin is unlikely to be satisfied for long with a more innocent scenario. He craves the suspense. He may move on slightly from bodily frailty or affliction but essentially he is a poet of the night and its unseen fears. He has a great eye for low light tonalities – almost Whistlerian – and this is really his niche. What we need to see now is a little more to the lifestyle – vehicles, foods, children or animals – no matter how mutant or unlikely. Can’t wait. :twisted:
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Re: Justin Mortimer – ‘Kult’ @ Parafin

Postby CAP » Tue Jun 16, 2015 2:43 pm

Incidentally, I note Justin has up-graded his website voiding all previous file paths for his JPGs, so the links in the 2013 review no longer work. :cry:

Personally, I find those little Flash slideshow presentations more trouble than they're worth, but each to his own I suppose.

I note the Parafin site runs on the same crap as well. :evil:
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