TIWAI, 7 MARCH - 7 APRIL, 2018

There's always a sense of wit at play amongst the devilry in Roger Mortimer's fantastical landscapes. In choosing Tiwai, as the title for this exhibition, a place known to all New Zealanders as the site of our only aluminium smelter, Roger points to the contemporary readings buried in his medieval imagery set on New Zealand marine charts. In Maori, tiwai means the main trunk of a tree or dug out canoe providing the artist with a useful pun to support his exploration of metaphorical navigational devices.

In this exhibition, Roger continues to advance his interest in graphic representations of Dante's famous 14th century poem the Divine Comedy tracing the poet's journey through hell to purgatory and heaven. Here for the first time, and harking back to his earlier text works, Roger brings in verse from the poem. The painting Tiwai contains the opening lines of the Inferno: ... For the straightforward way had been lost... And how do we find the way forward? Roger's singular art poses questions about the ethical dilemmas, frameworks and transformational concerns that have shaped human behaviour through the ages.

Mortimer joins a long line of writers and artist's intrigued by Dante. In 2013, American scholar Mary-Joy Bang made a contemporary translation of the poem and pointed to its timelessness: You know the story: Heaven, but not yet. First, you have to come to your senses in a dark forest and realise you've strayed from the path. You have to lose hope, and then find something bright that renews it... Bang has described the Inferno as "a dramatic, harrowing, and often extremely witty demonstration of the timeless pernicious effects of corruption, malice, selfishness, and nefariousness".

Roger Mortimer has been described as a contemporary visual mythologist. In these fantastical landscapes and watery coasts we see horror and hope, demons and angels, serpents and dragons, supplicants and sages. But despite the strange and surreal juxtaposition of ancient imagery, the themes are the universal, timeless and current - the search for peace and meaning amidst inhumanity. Mortimer's paintings represent his search for a personal cosmology to make sense of contemporary global turbulence. As viewers, we are drawn into the quest to decipher the clues, codes, symbols and signs depicted.

Roger has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland. In 2014, he won the Paramount Award in the Wallace Art Awards and a six-month residency at the International Studio and Curatorial Programme in New York. In 2017, a survey show of selected works from the past 20 years was shown at the Pataka Art Museum in Wellington and the University of Auckland Gus Fisher Gallery.