Thu | Sep 20, 2018

Mortimer - Painting a social commentary

Published:Sunday | January 18, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Photo by Amitabh Sharma Capturing the life of the man on the street, Mortimer explains the genesis of his painting
Photo by Amitabh Sharma A woodturning creation by Mortimer
Photo by Amitabh Sharma Portraits of people, pencil sketches by Mortimer
Photo by Amitabh Sharma Woodturning creation by Mortimer
Photo by Amitabh Sharma Finding symbolism in oft obscured materials, paintings by Mortimer
Photo by Amitabh Sharma A social commentary - severence and divorce, paintings by Mortimer
Photo by Amitabh Sharma Woodturning piece made by Mortimer

"When I was seven and go to church, I used to use the blank 'note' pages of the Bible to draw," Mortimer McPherson recalled. "The notes were drawings in my Bible."

Perhaps a divine intervention that was encouraging this youngster's creativity to ooze from his pencils and send a message to the Almighty, Mortimer embarked on his artistic journey.

There were some other key influences in his life, as he was growing up in St Catherine. "My mother was a dressmaker, and I was always observing her process of putting things together," he said, "and there was a painter and sculptor in the community, whose works also inspired me."

But, he said, his mother was not too pleased when Mortimer decided to pursue arts as a career.

"My mother couldn't come to terms with that decision, my older brothers went to the university and she wanted me to do that too," Mortimer said.

"There was a stereotypical persona of an artist," he added. "Unfortunately, I am still facing it."


He studied fine art at The Jamaica School of Art (now Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts) and continued to delve in different media for self-expression.

"My interests (over the years) have become exceedingly experimental with more attention placed on the surfaces of the work itself," he says. This, the artist says, he achieves by discovering and rediscovering his chosen medium, which gives him the stimulus that keeps him interested and excited.

But, he says, there monetary returns are not as vibrant as his interest levels. "It is my passion and my way to connect with the masses that keeps me going," Mortimer said.

render each moment

The man on the street, their lives and their struggles encourage him to tell stories through his paintbrush and palette.

"I like to render each moment, each person, each object with love and attention, making the insignificant significant," he said. "I strive to evoke an emotional response from the onlooker by painting and drawing character, highlighting their life."

As a fine artist, he is drawn to the insignificant - capturing them in canvas.

In the modern society, lives have become encased in the gadgetry. Being mechanised and plasticated, has become a part of people's lifestyles.

"We have moved from being creative to buying cheap creative stuff," Mortimer laments. "The taste patterns have started to change, there is lack of appreciation for our talent.

"And the fact that art has ended in every corner shop in the country has diminished its value."

But, he says, there is still hope.

more emphasis on


"There has to be more emphasis on education and harnessing the potential of art," Mortimer says, adding that there is a need to elevate the appreciation level.

"There is lack of depth of appreciation, and it is not seen as bread and butter for the people who are in this stream, which does not get the artists their due."

Wishful thinking it might be, Mortimer says, but he continues to delve in his childhood love for the last 30 years.

"My mind is always making art, it triggers something - emotions, circumstances and scenarios," he says.

From rusted and twisted pieces of iron to a man on the street, striving to find happiness as he tackles the elements, Mortimer continues to capture the human sentiments in his compositions. And for those who want to learn this craft, Mortimer also offers drawing and painting classes.

The path of life is riddled with challenges, it is never easy, it is said, but in the end it is worth it. "For me," the artist says, "each brushstroke says a lot of things; it keeps me searching and exploring."