Who would leave a surfboard in wide-open bed of a pick-up truck? What kind of person owns a beat up red pick-up truck and surfboard that looks as weather-beaten as the vehicle? What is the child in the blue face paint at the birthday party looking at off to one side, what is making him smile like that? What is the woman writing in the journal with many crossed out lines in it – or is she just reading it? What are they all thinking?
Questions abound about everything in our world when you let them. Viggo Mortensen's photographs remind us that behind every simple act there is the potential for complexity. Surfaces are just that, the face over top of what lies beneath. Even if his photographs aren't x-rays they do bring us to the point of pausing for a moment to think about what we are looking at and what's below the surface.
"I'm not arrogant enough to say I haven't been influenced by anyone," Mortensen comments on his way of seeing, "but the way I work has mostly been shaped just by being in the world and looking ... So much has already been done and there's not much that's new ... Making things is a way of finding out." (page 9)
The worst things about looking at catalogues of shows of paintings is the fact that it is so hard to get an idea of scale when seeing a work on a page. How much of the impact is lost by not seeing the work in person? Especially in the case of abstract art — and Mr. Mortensen's work is no exception to this — where texture and colour combine to stimulate a reaction within the viewer.
Look at how he describes his process as "making" in the above quote, then go through the book and look at the pictures again. For indeed, making these constructions is exactly what he's done, using as his building materials paint, wood, scraps of images from other sources, and pages of writing from what we can only assume are his own journals.
If making things is, as he says, "a way of finding things out," what is he attempting to find out? What has he seen "being in the world and looking" that has generated the questions he hopes to answer in his "makings"? What is your emotional response to the work on the page in front of you? What do you think he's asking?