For the past seven years, Gori Mora has been perfecting his unique process of painting on perspex. Eschewing the conventional canvas during his undergraduate studies at Barcelona University, the Majorcan artist searched for a medium that could better represent and replicate those omnipresent screens that increasingly govern our everyday lives. After accidentally observing the underside of a perspex painting-in-progress, having initially experimented with applying oil paint directly to the plastic surface, the fortuitous effects of the transparent panel - its flattening of the painted portrayal, addition of a distant detachment from the depiction and ability to reflect the visage of the viewer - appeared to perfectly perform as a screen simulation. From then on, Mora adopted an almost reversed painting practice, one that requires an inverted interpretation of depth, the foreground focused on first before methodically moving backwards through the composition. It’s an exposing exercise, requiring patience, an acceptance of the improvisational and trust in the experimental process. With each and every brushstroke evident after the final flipping of the perspex, Mora is left metaphorically naked (as opposed to his subject’s literal nudity).
Such nudity, while prevalent in the paintings, never approaches the pornographic. The artist instead opts for an everyday interpretation of art’s ongoing obsession with the ‘nude’, its existence unavoidable and one that shouldn’t be shameful or shied away from. Throughout, the male body is presented as an object of affection or device of desire, a gaze underrepresented in contemporary culture and often avoided in art today, despite being widely lauded during the Renaissance or in earlier Greco-Roman artistic exaltations of same-sex love and relationships. Drawing from his own lived experience, queer representation, and its consideration within our current socio-political and cultural climate, remains of utmost importance to Mora. Exploring how gay men use social media and dating apps to not only conduct their relationships but also to carefully cultivate their public and private personas, exposes the egalitarian nature of that online sphere. A double-edged sword to some degree, social media has historically served as a safe space for the queer community, yet one where offensive, outdated voices of objection are sadly still given a public platform.
For many of us, social media acts as the central conduit for an overwhelming majority of our interactions, with a large percentage of our interpersonal and romantic relationships playing out online as opposed to in person. Highlighting love and lust as two predominant driving forces for human connection, Mora is acutely aware of the ability to alter others’ perception of ourselves through opaque online avatars, doctored dating profiles and painstakingly posed photographs. This complex relationship between reality and representation, and its inherent contradictions, is a fundamentally contemporary consideration, as we welcome the opportunity to present an airbrushed interpretation of ourselves for all to see, picking photographs and selecting characteristics in order to appeal to others, regardless of their veracity.
The internet, and specifically social media, can be seen as a harbinger of human-technological hybrids, as we unconsciously approach that cybernetic state conceptualised by Donna Haraway in her esteemed 1985 essay A Cyborg Manifesto. In similarities to Mora’s world of internet posturing, the pre-eminent posthumanist philosopher’s cyborgs were born from the blurring of boundaries between the physical and the digital, between man and machine, between the organic and the artificial. Harraway proposed the retirement of restrictive labelling, a liberation from the limitations attached to terms used to demarcate gender, sexuality and identity, while presenting an alternative amalgamation of the technological, the imagined and the real.
Here, intimate interior scenes of lovers at leisure, while grounded in reality, are in fact hypothetical or fictionalised moments, situations and spaces onto which Mora, and by extension, the audience, can project their own wants and needs. Carpeted rooms are filled with chic furniture, some symbolic of the artist’s real-life surroundings, others chosen from homeware catalogues or inspired by the Art Deco design movement. An apparent repetition of fixtures and fittings allows for the implication of an expanded narrative, a contrived cinematic storyline spanning the series of paintings, a love affair playing out in front of our eyes. The viewer becomes the voyeur, as each perspex picture plane offers a window into the painted private lives of their inhabitants. Catching one's reflection in the mirrored surface, an unblinking blank stare momentarily returned, serves as a stark reminder that we are relegated to the role of the observer, privy to each innermost layer, yet unable to enter or involve ourselves. Mirrors themselves feature prominently within the paintings, those sites of self-perception, self-awareness or self-admiration bordering on self-obsession. The fabled tale of Narcissus, famously retold in Ovid’s mythological masterwork The Metamorphoses, comes to mind. That cautionary tale of arrogance and egotism that sees the handsome hunter - lured by Nemesis, goddess of revenge - encounter his own reflection in a pool, and be so instantly enamoured with his own image that he is unable to avert his gaze, eventually wantonly wasting away.
Mora’s gleaming, glossy surfaces simulate our present-day preoccupation with staring into screens. And yet, the artist’s perpetual pursuit of painting as opposed to directly engaging with a digital medium to depict human’s technological reliance imbues the work with both romanticism and a certain physicality. We can corporeally connect to each artwork, aware of the established conventions and open invitation to empathise with the personal portraits and sentimental scenes. Additionally, they evoke long-established art historical lineages, in particular, the pivotal role that painted portraiture played in courtship before the advent of photography. Throughout, figures are fragmented, often within the confined frames of those aforementioned mirrors or actual windows. This characteristic cropping both implies intimacy and speaks to the behaviours employed on online dating apps such as Grindr, where men have a peculiar penchant for presenting only individual body parts, allowing for anonymity but also indicative of a clearly calculated choice, the selection of their most prized appendage. Again, the viewer or voyeur can only catch a glimpse, unwise to the wider story and left to fill in the missing pieces for themselves.