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Maurice Ortega

“Our protagonist purposefully miscast as the 'hero' attempts to fulfil his role as a successful and relevant member of society. With the knowledge of the small distance that separates success and failure, our Champion fights and struggles for recognition, affection and ultimately love. In danger of becoming a failure he struggles with his own past and confronts his future as each challenge reveals its true nature. Will our hero finally expose the parody in which he has been become an unwitting participant? Will he jeopardise his status when confronted with the true nature of his desires? Or finally will he challenge his desires to discover the web of deceit disguised as charity, decency and kindness?”

(Maurice Ortega, statement for Billboards, 2005)

Drawing on the language of advertising, Ortega’s digital banners stage narratives in which the artist casts himself as the central protagonist or anti-hero to not only disrupt the stereotypes and language of advertising but to also allude and thereby question the discourses of painting. In one such billboard, Ortega appears draped in hotel towels – a modern equivalent to the Roman bathrobe – revealing his stigmata to three curious onlookers in a composition and colour schemata that directly alludes to Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of St Thomas (c. 1600, oil on canvas). Ortega’s role-playing and photographic methods directly engage with discourses of masculinity, using parody and allusions to investigate the appearance of the archetypal hero in contemporary culture.