Since I’ve been here I’ve been introduced to the works of some interesting Icelandic artists. Many of whom draw on nature as an inspiration – especially water.
I find it both interesting and challenging to find a way to work with found materials and the landscape that isn’t trite, sentimental, or didactic. A way that allows for spontaneity, openness, and multiple interpretation. I sometimes look to other artists to guide me (both by their good and bad examples).
I didn’t know of any Icelandic artists till I arrived here – shame on me. The closest I came was (New York born and raised) Roni Horn who has worked extensively here and is perhaps most famous for her On Place series of monographs begun in Iceland in 1982. Iceland has become her lasting muse. Her Library of Water at Stykkisholmur is definitely on my agenda.
Some of the artists whose work I’ve found engaging or enlightening since coming here have been (click on their names to go to their websites) -
Her Archive of Endangered Water which is currently installed at the National Gallery of Iceland in Reykjavik was Iceland’s entry to the Venice Biennale in 2003. It’s right up my alley in the way it encourages user interaction and then presents a strong physical experience of the landscape to the viewer, captured through digital means. I wish you had to don gumboots and a rain jacket a la Niagara Falls to enter the space.
Another lover of water. Friends in Rekjavik mentioned Finnbogi to me when I told them I was interested in wiring up the landscape and recording its resonances during my residency (more on that later). I like the way he uses electronic means to engage the physical.
He has been at Baer and with his great love of streams and the ocean I’m not surprised. He’s the first artist I’ve encountered who has visually deconstructed water and its movements in a way similar to what I’m doing in my digital prints – but he uses the much more painstaking process of oil painting to achieve his ends. In one catalog of his work the essay refers to his love of fishing and describes the oil paints all lined up as being akin to fishing flies and the act of painting as being a way to catch the river.
Ragna actually schlepps loads of pumice from the edges of Hekla and other Icelandic volcanoes into the gallery which she then adheres both gesturally and painstakingly directly to the wall or traps within sheets of glass like an ant farm. One installation of black pumice in the huge plate glass window of the Reykjavik Art Museum heated up so much during the day that it smashed the glass window threatening to hail volcanic detritus down on innocent passers by – a man-made eruption. Her work connects to minimalist sculpture but is enlivened and empowered by the raw energy of the materials that she uses.