FUBAR, Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition, is Bergthor Morthens’ result of a battle to expose by covering up. Challenging traditional painting, Morthens’ violent and time consuming process of building up and tearing down, and his use of unconventional materials, serves to reveal the true colours of political figures and episodes.
A decade ago the world was hit with a financial crisis. It led not only to a severe economic depression but also to political unrest. For Icelandic painter Bergthor Morthens (b.1979), the crisis in his homeland was the starting point for becoming more politically engaged in his artistic practise. Losing his trust in politicians, Morthens realized that he as an artist could react to the current situation and comment on it by using his art as a tool.
Getting out of his artistic comfort zone - traditional realistic figurative painting carried out with earth colours - Morthens started painting portraits of middle aged, white, male conservative politicians. He introduced a more free and creative approach divided in two steps. He began painting figuratively and then went on to implement a second performative act, where he altered the painting with bright colours and deformation, leading to the destruction of all likeness to the traditional realistic portrait.
Using the painting as a battlefield, with colours as his weapons, Morthens takes on his opponent and fights until the whole is interrupted and a different narrative takes over. Colour is indeed a very important tool in Morthens’ artistry, the blotch of strong and bright colours comes in as a separate action, contaminating the portrait, almost cancerous, and altering it in the process. It alludes to chromophobia, the fear of colour and a strong unwillingness to use colour, especially in traditional Western culture and intellectual thought where colour has often been seen as corrupting, foreign and superficial (D.Bachelor, Chromophobia, 2000). Throughout his works Morthens is searching for the role of colour as a subversive way to challenge established hierarchies, and as a way of undermining authority.
Morthens’ time and energy consuming creative process reveals the artist’s struggle trying to deal with the current political situation. His style bears reference to the gesture-led field of post-war expressionist painting, a violent process of building up, tearing down, and building up again, moving towards formlessness. In other words, FUBAR, Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition. In a way this is paradoxical: By covering up his subjects, Morthens' portraits at the same time reveal their true colours.