In the interview that prefaces the book Recent Forgeries, Viggo Mortensen's home is described as being filled to bursting with artwork under construction, completed pieces, materials he has accumulated with an eye for what they might become some day, and piles of framed and unframed photographs everywhere. In order to carry out simple tasks like getting a drink out of the fridge for Kristine McKenna, who conducted the interview, requires moving a couple of canvasses so the door can be opened.
"The garage is full of paintings even bigger than these" he says, and is described as sounding as if he was confessing to some transgression. It's no wonder then that only two yeas after the show that was catalogued in Recent Forgeries, Mr. Mortensen has been able to pull together enough material for a new show at the Track 16 Gallery in Santa Monica California.
As with the previous show, Mr. Mortensen has released a catalogue of the work that was on display. Unlike the earlier show, SignLanguage contains only works of visual art, photographs, and paintings. Well, that's not exactly true, for as is usual for Mr. Mortensen's painting, he has incorporated writings from his journals into the works. It's just that none of the writings appear on their own as individual works.
At first glance the paintings appear to be simply colour - bold and vivid eye-catching colours that reach out and grab your attention with all the subtlety of an act of violence. With careful regard, images or ideas can be seen shyly showing themselves through the brilliance.
At first there might only seem to be a meaningless scrawl of words barely discernable through the layers of paint and texture, but deliberately or not, it is left for you to decide. Certain words or specific images will push themselves forward. They might be slightly darker in their outline, or be a little more exposed, that their presence becomes obvious. However it happens, they are what the eye will be drawn to after settling down from the initial assault of colour.
In one painting the rough line drawing of a tree climbs the right hand border with a dark moon or sun framed between two major branches. The contrast of the images with the predominate rose colour makes one wonder about the scrawl of words that is underlying the whole. Not legible to the reader of the book, part of me wants to know if the poem, or journal entry if that's what it is, are what the title "Volsung 2001" refers to – or is it some reference to the tree and what appears to be an eclipsed moon or sun?