Written by Adeline Paradis-Hautcoeur.
About 10 years ago, in the basement of La Bête Noire in Sherbrooke, MURAL’s founders met MORT for the first time. At the time, this comic book shop was welcoming artists to paint on DUNNY, a vinyl figurine that remains very popular in the street art scene.
MORT’s talent struck the 4 founders who have been following and supporting his career ever since. A long-term collaboration with the artist thus began. In 2017, MORT was invited to participate in the MURAL Festival where he created his first-ever official mural. He also added his touch to MURAL’s VIP zone decor in 2018.
After a couple of years in Montreal, MORT recently moved back to Sherbrooke to focus entirely on his artistic practice. Today, he’s letting us inside his studio to discuss his journey as an artist.
Your work is truly outstanding and the quantity of detail is impressive. Can you tell us more about your sources of inspiration?
Haha! I have so many sources of inspiration and this is probably why I include so many details. I would love to include every idea I have at once. I still try to let it breathe a little, reminding myself that “less is more”.
More specifically, my main sources of inspiration are comic books dating from the late 80’s / early 90’s, skateboard graphics of from the same time period until the beginning of the 00’s, paintings and stamps from the Renaissance, publicity, mangas, cartoons in general, the aesthetic of counterculture movements, etc. The list could go on indefinitely! I try to mix everything to create a unique composition with many possible interpretations and hidden symbols.
I won’t start talking about the artists who have influenced me here, it would be too long, I’m a complete “art geek”.
Which period of your life most influenced your work?
Each period brought me its share of discoveries and influences. If I had to choose, I think the period of my life which influenced me the most would probably be at the beginning of my adolescence, when it all began.
It’s when I discovered skateboard, hip hop, graffiti, punk and when I started mixing them up to make it mine. It was a very stimulating period where there were a lot of new things happening in a short period of time. It’s also when I got more interested in art and realised its power.
Where is the best place to get inspiration and discover new talents according to you?
I won’t lie, Instagram changed the game. I discover new talents and inspiring things every day on this platform.
For inspiration, I am still depending a lot on my book collection, which is ridiculously large. Digital will never fully replace this for me. Although, I must say that I use Tumblr and Pinterest from time to time to research specific references.
Your work uses different techniques can you tell us more about your artistic process and the different steps you go through when creating an artwork?
Before beginning to sketch, I always start by saturating myself visually. I then let my mind make links and create a blend of images. At this stage, I don’t have specific colours in mind, but they then come to accentuate the elements that I find interesting and sometimes bring an additional layer of symbolism.
I start painting only at this moment and I always have a plan; only a tiny part of my work is unplanned. It’s my compulsive obsessive side. Once in the action, I choose the best medium for each section. I mainly alternate between acrylic and spray cans. I’ve been working a lot on tondos lately, but I also like to make cut-outs. I think I might push more in that direction with layered compositions.
The killer question: Why choosing “Mort” meaning “dead” in French as your artist name?
That’s a good question! It’s certainly an interesting way to bring it, anyway. Maybe it’s because artists who are dead have more success ahah!
No, really, long story short: originally, I named myself Mort by Wolves and slowly people started calling me Mort on a daily basis. So, I just shortened my original name.
You are one of the rare Quebec artists who doesn’t live in the metropolis how is the dynamic?
It’s a different rhythm. I needed it. Moving away from the city allowed me to breathe a little, literally and financially. I wanted to focus on my work and reduce distraction. It’s a phase, I intend on coming back to Montreal in the future. In fact, I’m often in the city to work on projects and visit different exhibitions.
You participated in the MURAL Festival in 2017 with the creation of a large-scale mural artwork. How was the experience? Can you tell us more about the themes explored in that mural?
I loved my experience. For me, MURAL marked the beginning of my professional career. I haven’t had the need to go back to a 9 to 5 schedule since.
The mural I created for the 2017 edition of the Festival was in line with the samurai theme I was exploring a lot in this period. As for the interpretation of it, I rarely give a guideline to analyse my work. I prefer letting the public give it the meaning they want. It’s more interesting for me. I like hearing people talk about my artworks and reach different conclusions.
It’s one of the only murals you’ve done. Will we have the chance to marvel at more murals in the future?
Yes, it’s one of my goals. I love working on large-scale projects and I think my work is well adapted to that scale. I’m just waiting for interesting opportunities. I have so many ideas pending. So, you’ll probably be seeing me often on a skyjack next summer.
You have a pretty vast portfolio. Which project are you most proud of?
It’s hard to say, I’m a perfectionist, so I need to take a step back to fully appreciate what I do and feel proud about it.
I think that the collaboration I did for the launching of Reebok Gore-Tex X Raised by Wolves at The Letter Bet gallery in Saint-Henri would be the project I’m the most proud of. For the event, I created artworks inspired on the colours of the sneakers. I also built wood bases to present the shoes which were frozen inside ice blocks.
I have a training in woodworking, so mixing this with my art was really fun for me. We also launched a limited-edition hoodie with one of my designs, for the event. Combining woodworking and fashion to my work was definitely something I’ve always wanted to do.
Are there projects on which you’re working right now that you could tell us about?
I’ve been exploring a lot lately. I’m perfecting my technique and looking for new ideas to push my style further. I’m trying to be as unique as possible and develop my own universe.
To answer your question, I’m working on a new series of paintings and starting to conceptualise my first solo show. It’s still at an embryonic stage, but I’m beginning to feel a direction taking form in my work.