Greg Mort Artist of Our Universe by Francesco Bertola Professor of Astrophysics The University of Padua
The concept of the macrocosm is that of embracing the universe in its vastness and grandeur. The converse and mirrored opposite of this is the microcosm, our dealings with man in the realm of his own world. This counterpoint has been developed since antiquity as a philosophical idea and as a mythological vision, shaping the evolution of both art and science through the ages. The human fascination with this duality remained lively from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance, and it continues to capture our focus today. These worlds of the micro and the macro are the main subjects of the art work of Greg Mort. Some of his paintings show their intersection, a subtle interplay between the vast and minute. Other pieces are dominated by a singular majestic scene that overwhelms everything else.
In many works Mort focuses the viewer’s attention on seemingly commonplace objects that upon further contemplation reveal a much deeper meaning. Works transmitting the sense of the immensity of the universe are exemplified by "Streams of Stars" where the Milky Way is shown in all its dazzling brightness like a deep sea lapping on a beach strewn with shells. In the symbology of Greg Mort, such shells testify to the presence of life. The Milky Way is a link between the earth and the sky. In the painting "A Million Nights" the deepness of the celestial vault and the vast sweep of time are confronted by two earthbound Sequoia pine cones. The relationship of man with the universe has inspired Greg since his early work, as in the 1988 watercolor "Into the Night" where a young man sitting on rocks contemplates the night sky full of stars and the Milky Way. Although rendered with a very different pictorial style, Mark Chagall's 1910 "Figure in Front of the Blue Vault" transmits the same sensation and can be considered an anticipation of Greg Mort’s sensibility. The microcosm of Greg Mort is rendered by a teapot surrounded by slices of lemon (Lemon Tea), by a shell out of a stamped envelope (Travelers), again by shells mixed with stones in a large pot (Island Treasures) or by an intriguing apple, suspended at the border of an embroidered table cloth and challenging the laws of gravity (Second Dream).
Three examples of scenarios where the Moon plays with the clouds (Moon in the East, Hours of the Moon, Gentle Moon) remind us of a time four centuries ago, when, in 1609, the German painter Adam Elsheimer produced one of the very first examples of the naturalistic nocturnal landscape that would stand as a prototype for the great masters who came after him, Greg Mort among them. The title of Elsheimer painting is "The Flight into Egypt" and as with Greg's work, the Moon, the Stars and the Milky Way dominate the terrestrial landscape. In 1997 the University of Padua, NASA-JPL and the German Space Agency organized a meeting to celebrate pioneering astronomer Galileo and at the same time two instruments named after him, the spacecraft sent to explore Jupiter and the large telescope installed in the Canary Islands. To leave a lasting memento of the meeting, Greg Mort was asked to prepare a painting on the subject, being well known as an artist who is sensitive to the themes of scientific exploration of the universe. In the notable painting he produced, Galileo is present only as a shadow projected on the carved stone, a shadow in which, according to Greg, we all stand. The carved stones are rich in detail, each with deep meanings that reveal the profound thought of the artist, in addition to his excellence as a painter. This work is now proudly hanging adjacent to the hall used by Galileo for his lectures, in the main building of the University of Padua. As an astronomer I feel indebted to Greg Mort, because he is inspired by the same events that are the subject of our studies. This gives an added value to the astronomical research. Greg Mort Artist of Our Universe