By Sara Lee Burd

Young, intelligent, skilled, and ambitious, painter James Mortimer creates worlds and concocts tales in his artwork. His training in painting and sculpture at the Bath School of Art provided Mortimer the art historical background to engage the lessons of artists past. His imagery of human and animal interactions echoes Frida Kahlo’s dark humor, and his occasional naïve style recalls Henri Rousseau’s paintings of landscape settings that also portrayed imagined lore. Mortimer’s use of foregrounded figures set against retreating landscapes recalls perspectives by Fra Angelico combined with dreamlike overtones of the morbid, occult, and erotic à la Symbolist Puvis de Chavannes.

While the Bath-based painter’s stylistic lineage peaks through, his work is hardly derivative. The figures, narratives, and palettes are all his own—neither blatantly contemporary nor pulled from a specific time in the past. Considered controversial by some, Mortimer’s paintings arouse a connection with the darker side of life that exists below the surface of polite society, one that embraces temptation, indulgence, danger, and decadence. As Mortimer recalls, “a few of the tutors absolutely hated my work and one described it as ‘the product of a disturbed mind, deeply misogynistic—horrible.’” This type of review compels attention, and the young artist’s career has taken off with his most recent exhibition at the prestigious Catto Gallery in London. By blending various moments from the history of art with his own quirky and often mischievous perspective, he creates distinct work that resonates widely.

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The frenzy

The Frenzy, Oil on canvas, 14” x 10”

3. Landscape with a burning house

Burning House, Oil on canvas, 39” x 30”

2. thewheatfield

The Wheat Field, Oil on canvas, 14” x 10”

Monkey and melons

Monkey and Melons, Oil on canvas, 14” x 10”

1. coconutman

Coconut Man, Oil on canvas, 14” x 10”

Man with a stick

Man with Stick, Oil on canvas, 14” x 10”

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Painter James Mortmer


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