Viggo Mortensen - Painting with Light

Source: New Zealand Art Monthly


At the end of last year photographer Viggo Mortensen exhibited in Wellington, in two separate displays, Massey University and Michael Hirschfield Gallery, City Gallery.

The Michael Hirschfield Gallery, on the ground floor of the Wellington City Gallery, carried Mortensen's displays of photographs taken in and around Wellington during the filming of Lord of the Rings.

The Main Building of Massey University, Wellington, carried a wider range of Viggo's work including photographs taken in the United States, Scandinavia and elsewhere.

Both collections display large, high quality colour ink jet printed images of Mortensen's photographs. The artist uses multiple exposures, camera shake and long open shutter exposures coupled with extensive camera movement, to paint images onto the film emulsion. The result are vigorous images, full of movement, bright splashes of colour, and delicate filigrees of light and detail. In some cases recognisable images are given - a man holding a horse by its bridle, make-up artists preparing actors for a film shoot, large lights on stands silhouetted at sunset in preparation for a night shoot. In other cases, the camera has been spun on its axis, producing concentric rings of green and white.

During production of the Wellington images, Mortensen's camera developed light leak, and rather than discard the resulting images, many of the prints feature the broad golden slashes of light entering the back of the camera.

Semi documentary images such as the results of a hangi on a beach, or a Maori youth grinning at the camera, sit alongside abstract images of spirals, arcs and zigzags - city lights taken at night with an unfocussed camera waved or jiggled in a figure of eight motion. One memorable print is a double image of a fern frond, taken in the Akatarawa forest, a bright luminous green.

Overall, this body of something like a hundred surreal and often abstract images, represent an enjoyable and visually satisfying experience.

[This review was accompanied by images of Jarem 2000 and Pukerua Bay 2003]
Last edited: 12 September 2006 05:59:43
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