University of Manitoba - Faculty of Arts - Icelandic Language and Literature - Visions - Contemporary Icelandic Art Series
Visions - Contemporary Icelandic Art Series

October 6 - November 10, 2005
Dr. Paul H. T. Thorlakson Gallery
The Icelandic Reading Room
Elizabeth Dafoe Library

The first exhibition in the Visions series, a project coordinated by Hannes Lárusson of Reykjavík, Iceland in collaboration with The Icelandic Collection, University of Manitoba Libraries and the Department of Icelandic Language and Literature, Faculty of Arts.

Ásmundur Ásmundsson
Web

III. Headline

If I remember correctly, at Ási's exhibit, he was mostly occupied with placing the pink-edged bags with foam-like junk up in the ceiling and managing the white oversized (10XL) T-shirts on which he had painted portraits of famous people, using thick paint. On a videotape, you could see the artist telling whale stories, acting like a whale. Whales are amazing creatures. They swim with their jaws wide open all their lives and swallow everything that comes their way. At the same time, they are exceptionally sleek and ever cheerful. The song “Joy is the Best Opium” in a brand new orchestration by DJ Musician, sounded all-round. The guests were amused. No wonder, for they were viewing an exhibit called G.A.M.A.N. A few days later, when I began to write about the work, the title The More the Merrier dawned on me. I keyed the melodious heading into Google. In 20 seconds 1,680,000 links were found, relating to the American movie. It’s described as a “delightful romantic comedy” from the year 1943, nominated for 6 Oscars and George Stevens received one for directing. The second link in the endless row ferries the reader straight into the third edition of The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy from the year 2002 where the title is explained: “The more people there are involved in something, the more fun it will be. The more the merrier is often used to welcome those who wish to participate in an activity but hesitate to join in uninvited.” The third link ended in a dead. The Atlantic online required a subscription and in order to get more information, payment was needed. On one side of the webpage, there was some kind of a poster with an image of a polar bear on an ice floe. The following text was also written on it: “The Arctic is melting. Global warming is real. You can make a difference.” From the start, I had decided to do a round of three. This was the end of the last one.

Exerpt from Footnotes and Headlines by Hannes Lárusson
Transl. Birna Bjarnadóttir

 

March 19 - April 15, 2006
Dr. Paul H. T. Thorlakson Gallery
The Icelandic Reading Room
Elizabeth Dafoe Library

In ancient times, Icelanders went on raids to pillage and steal from other nations. Their journeys lasted months or even years and when the heroes returned triumphant they brought home various treasures from foreign countries, either for decoration or everyday use. The most important treasures were the knowledge and learning that the Vikings obtained on their journeys which they made creative use of at home. They also brought back with them slaves who taught their children new customs. In that way other cultures were blended with the Nordic cultures and this prepared the nation for profound changes. The conversion to Christianity, for one, is believed to have occurred without bloodshed when it became law at the Althing around 999. By then, Irish slaves had long been teaching heathen children prayers in the spirit of Christianity and war was not necessary to convert Icelanders to Christianity. Only preparation and instruction were needed. Today people still refer to raiding (fara í víking). However, its meaning is not related to killing or plundering, rather people go raiding to obtain knowledge, experience and open-mindedness in foreign lands and so come back twice as strong, ready to introduce new risks and new ways of thinking into society.

JBK Ransu
Transl. Pat Odegard

Hekla Dögg Jónsdóttir
Web

Hekla Dögg Jónsdóttir went to the United States around the mid 1990’s where she studied at CalArt in Los Angeles […] In Los Angeles it is against the law to set off fireworks. However in Iceland, fireworks are a part of cultural events such as Reykjavík's annual Cultural Night. The fireworks displays are generally viewed as the most important cultural part of the event, much more so than the opening of the visual arts exhibition, visual arts performance or the poet's poetry recital. Fireworks are certainly in part an image reflecting materialism. They are produced in large numbers and each New Year's Eve Icelandic families set off a total of about 600 tons of fireworks at a cost of about a half million kronur inside of about one hour, so that the air over the capital city area becomes similarly polluted as if by volcano eruption. But this common New Year's Eve performance of Icelanders is also an enchanting hour, a social gathering which all participate in and no one can claim as their own. It’s a moment of shared pleasure. That is exactly the way in which to approach Hekla Dögg’s work.

JBK Ransu
Transl. Pat Odegard

 

Jón Óskar

Jón Óskar went in the early 80's on to graduate school of Visual Arts in New York. Jón soon pursued as his medium of expression and style the New Image painting but with strong characteristics from action painting of the post-war period. […]
The Delaware series is Jón's newest project and is inspired by the painting of Emanuel Leutze from 1851. The texture has decreased compared with Jón's older work as it is more relaxed gestural drawing and a style somewhere between crass and baroque has taken over the painting. Still, Jackson Pollack is as much of a myth in the history of American visual arts as are Marilyn Monroe and James Dean in the motion picture history and for this reason the strong reference in Jón Óskar's work to Pollack's drip painting remains an important symbol.

Images do play a big role in Jón Óskar's work and the Delaware series is no exception. Leutzes' original painting is one of the treasures of the Metropolitan collection in New York and shows a confident George Washington along with a portion of 2400 troops sailing over the Delaware River which separates New Jersey and Pennsylvania as they come to land and defeat The King of England's hired German troops. The event is thought to be the turning point in the American uprising against the British crown and therefore symbolic as one of Jón's key subjects, Americanization.

JBK Ransu
Transl. Pat Odegard

 

October 27 - December 9, 2006
Aceartinc. in the Flux Gallery
2nd flr. 290 McDermont Avenue

Coordinated by Birna Bjarnadóttir and Hannes Lárusson, Icelandic artist. Sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Iceland, the Icelandic Consulate in Winnipeg, and the Department of Icelandic Language and Literature, University of Manitoba.

Haraldur Jónsson
Web

Far from being in exile from the desired reality, the artist draws the map from above and beneath the bridge, acknowledging the interplay between language and perception, allowing, as it were, for the gap to express itself. 'There are more things in heaven and earth that dreamt of in your philosophy.' Was it Haraldur who said this? He might have. Being both a poet and an artist, the enterprise of the empty yet vital language is carefully drawn by the unspeakable force of his perception. In his artwork, the gap expresses itself in different forms and colors, often as fragile, fleeting glimpses of reality that cannot but be carried away, again and again, in the constantly moving ocean of the beautifully doomed opportunities. A little boy reading aloud in an alphabetical order the names of emotions; a person projecting the vast darkness inside onto a piece of crumpled black paper; a set of drawings, framed under transparent film, hanged on a wall in the form of a French window, allowing us to view the inner landscape of emotions and their immediate effect as a form of hypersensitivity, or even a certain allergy.

'Experience is not to be searched for in a dictionary. It falls out of the range of language.' 'The gap', also in his own words, 'is the wound.' If so, the bridge within that separates one's perception from all the desired things might thus be washed with the ocean, the color of blood.

Birna Bjarnadóttir

 

Steingrímur Eyfjörð
Web

H: Your work Bone in a Landslide is connected with these ideas in many ways. The landslide has an allusion deep within the Icelandic soul, falling and causing damage when the nature spirits stir in the land. We live and move on the edge or the precipice between mountain and shore.

S: Definitely. The inspiration behind that work is a newspaper article about a rockslide in þvottaskriður. When I looked at the photograph I began to think about this precious phenomenon in our national identity which is the Icelander's experience of nature. It’s normal for us to provide natural explanations for landslides and other natural catastrophes. In nature, where nothing is manmade, something quite different from humans is in charge. When you turn your thoughts there, you can't help imagining personifications of nature, and when the landslides falls there’s a troll or dwarf in the mountains which is responsible for the natural catastrophe. I made 100 drawings of trolls and nature spirits with Ásgrímur Jónsson looking over my shoulder, then chose 16 as models in various materials. This work describes this aspect of the Icelandic national soul.

    

May 10 - June 7, 2008
Aceartinc. in the Flux Gallery
2nd flr. 290 McDermont Avenue

Coordinated by Birna Bjarnadóttir curated by Hannes Lárusson, Icelandic artist. This exhibition is in association with Núna (now) 2008.

Gunnhildur Hauksdóttir & Kristín Ómarsdóttir
Web

Witches and Fishers

Those who have tried hand-line fishing know the feeling of lowering a multiple-hook baited line into the green and grayish sea and waiting. When you draw the line back it can happen that a glistening, wriggling fish hangs on every hook. Your first move after the catch has been hoisted onto the boat, is to slit each fish's pharynx, fling it quickly aside, then bait and slide the line overboard again. But sometimes when you draw the line there are only fish on the occasional hook; more often than not the hooks surface bare and empty from the dark.

A porridge is cooking in a large saucepan, it boils and bubbles and subsides again lazily. Someone watches over the saucepan and stirs occasionally with a large spoon. It is not so very in today to envisage two women stirring occasionally in a plain saucepan, and probably even worse if the saucepan or cauldron would be cooking in a fireplace and smoke would permeate the room. Perhaps the approach would be more acceptable if one would hear a strange and obscure mantra from within the smoke, and two witches would stand hunched over the cauldron, stirring their infusion.

Gunnhildur and Kristín fish and stir. They slide their hooks into the deepblue depths of the subconscious and fish, more often than not, wriggling fish, an occasional sheepish sea monster is dragged on board, or they add mermaids, shore zombies or sea devils. In the subconscious one finds dangerous creatures, there the blood flows and heads roll off, misshapen demons leap forth at every corner, omens of everything but good, half-chanted verses freeze you to the marrow. But if you listen closely, you can also discern the ambiguous resonance of unfulfilled wishes, there you can even stretch out on a hammock in between two palm trees with a sombrero, nursing a glass of rum for all eternity.

Kristín and Gunnhildur do not only fish for dinner, they also hunt on dry land, gathering daylight-flotsam, from leaves to the roots of genealogical trees, worn-out words, daydreams, cats and old ladies. They take their brooms out onto the streets, into the universities, into the homes and the minds, into every nook and cranny. The things that the brooms collect can be as slippery as the hooks. If I were asked which tools they use, the answer would be hooks and brooms. These are dangerously enigmatic tools, belonging by nature to both the female and the male, at home in two worlds: One is dry, the other wet, one bright, hard and flat, the other deep, dark and cold. On a close encounter, Gnnhildur's and Kristín's art originates from riding broomsticks and swallowing hooks.

Hannes Lárusson
Transl. Ása Helga Hjörleifsdóttir

A psychic skeleton of the art exhibition Audition

You walk along the streets of Winnipeg City on a Sunday afternoon. Your friends are away, nobody has answered your calls, and yet no one has called. If you'd see a river you would throw your mobile phone into it. You are totally idle, you lost the book you were reading early in the morning; you’re not hungry, or thirsty; but you’re in such a lonely state of mind that you would enter a prison to seek human company. And we haven't said it yet: You haven't met any animals on the streets. All of a sudden you pass an open door.

You enter a space – AceArtInc – which has a blue-mare-sea colored walls, ice-white floor, its ceiling invisible. “Isn't this a space wherein the will of decision becomes lost,” you contemplate because you don’t know which way to turn. You see two new doors, bigger than the first one. And that is why you let your perception choose or decide – you hear a song sung by a female voice, and you reckon that this song has either been written in ancient times or it remains still uncomposed, waiting for its composition in distant future. You also hear some murmur – so ordinary, normal and everydayish. Of course you choose to follow the song.

You pass a well organized desk, with cheap photocopied essays and free city-maps, on your way to a gigantic big saloon. The color of the floor is pink, the walls pearly white, and in spite of its humongousity you get the claustrophobic feeling that you're inside of a dictator's coffin. And then you want to cry. Because you remember something words can’t describe. And this song. – This song – where does it come from?
Oh, that we don’t know yet.

p.s. Something about the audition
p.p.s. We want to collect all the cats we meet on the streets of Winnipeg, and move them to the gallery, feed them prawns and milk. The floor of the dark saloon will be covered with cats and plates with cat food. On one wall we screen our lady, the opera singer, who sings and talks, smokes, contemplates. Something about the inspiring gift of her wisdom–

Reykjavík April 1, 2008
Gunnhildur and Kristín