Steve Mortimer, aka Black Chapel, is best known for his musical production and remixing work. Even Butterflies Make A Sound caught up with him to talk about his debut visual art exhibition and his upcoming CONNECT music collaboration.
Accessible art is one of Steve Mortimer’s major passions. However, if it isn’t underpinned by a determined commitment to ecological matters, he argues, art becomes meaningless posturing.
Eco. Not ego.
You can tell he isn’t interested in creating art for art’s sake and he doesn’t care for the mythology that surrounds the whole scene.
“I don’t like art with a capital A. Everyone can be an artist. My problem is with the elevation in status, similar to music icons. It’s just a myth.”
Warming to his theme, he continues: “If you follow high art – and say ‘that’s’ great – you are just getting further away from creativity. I mean, a midwife delivering a baby is art! Bin men – essential services – our idea of creativity is so twisted.
“Real creativity is something that encourages a love of life. Biophilia. Sustainability. Eco justice. Gender justice.”
Applying music-making techniques to visual art
In a similar vein to his approach to music (more of which later), Steve has applied his ethos of capturing moments in music – sampling – to his artwork and working with that.
It all came from an interest in creating images on that most ubiquitous of gadgets, a mobile phone, and triple or quad exposing visuals or snapshots.
At the start, he recalls screenshotting a harrowing image of “military abuse of foreign nationals” from a well-known news provider and attempting to subvert that image.
He continued exploring that theme until The Window Gallery in Chelmsford took notice and hosted his debut Black Chapel Art show.
The exhibition was initially intended to confront commuters on their way to Chelmsford train station, but like most things, the pandemic has kyboshed that.
However, Steve’s positivity allows him to draw positives from an otherwise depressing situation: “Artists are being challenged how they present their art. They are being asked to re-interpret their normal way of working. It’s made everyone re-evaluate how they communicate. I think it’s created a need for synergy, to work with different artists.”
Which leads us neatly to another project Steve is pursuing: CONNECT, which is a collaboration between musicians, DJs, rappers, artists and poets.
The Black Chapel Collective connects
Together with world-renowned scientists and scholars, from varying spiritual and ecological traditions, the group will creatively express how science, arts and spirituality are not in opposition to each other, but connected.
“With the CONNECT project we wish to convey a love of life. Not in a sentimental way. We urge people to reflect on their situation. I mean, we haven’t got the answers! Just do your research!
By way of clarification after our chat, Steve drops me a message later: “I was not implying all artists have it wrong, there is great beauty in art and music that historically has has touched us all. My point was in the last 20 to 30 years the danger if we view art with a capital A it becomes done by the few not the many. The challenge as a species is to redefine what we exactly mean by creativity.”
CONNECT will be broadcast by Hot Box Live Events.