Geographically remote from the rest of the world, Iceland is a country of notably few people. Exemplary is the Icelandic app, Íslendinga which helps you determine if your potential romantic interest is actually a little-known cousin or forgotten aunt. Naturally, that scarcity also extends to the artistic community. For instance, at the Iceland Academy of the Arts only eight students are doing the MA in Fine Arts. Icelandic conceptual art is a concept in itself, refined and invariably endowed with a poetic character and subtle sense of absurdity – just like its magical landscapes. We’re all familiar with Ólafur Elíasson, Björk, Sigurður Guðmundsson, Steina and Woody Vasulka but who are the other Icelandic artists you should know? Eva Wilson, the curator of Iceland’s Cycle Music and Art Festival, reveals here.
Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir
Musician and performer Valtýsdóttir (1982) is the Icelandic music-wonder-child; she would perform one-woman shows as Kría Brekkan, was part of the psychedelic Icelandic band Mùm and played accordion in the Balkan-goth band Stórsveit Nix Noltes. In 2015 she released the album “Howl” with Vinyl Factory’s new label Bel-Air Glamour Records. The sounds of her feminine, mysterious and ambient music during a concert at the festival is accompanied by a photographic work in the exhibition under the same title, which is the result of a long meditation in the Mojave desert of California .
The found everyday objects that Fridfinnsson (1943) uses in his work are of a striking but humble abstraction. The thoroughly Icelandic artist transforms different media and objects in a sort of object-transcending poetry, in which he creates new worlds, languages and folklore traditions. In 1974 Fridfinnsson created the legendary work “I collect personal secrets”, in which he placed an advertisement in a Dutch periodical announcing himself as a collector of secrets and asking people to give him their secrets. Like all his work, the collection of secrets is of a startling simplicity which in itself highlights the volatility and fallacy of our perception.
The artist and musician Egill Saebjörnsson (1973), who will represent Iceland next year at the 57th Venice Biennale, creates grotesque, humorous and caricatural projects. In his work he often takes on various personas whom seem to derive from an unusual, almost childish and playful boredom with the world, thus inventing alternative spaces and entities to flourish. During the festival, together with artists Magnús Jensson and Áki Ásgeirsson, Saerbjörnsson staged an alienating dialogue indicative of his own work consisting of text, music, popcorn, instruments and sound.
On the third day of the festival the Reykjavík-born, Kolbeinn Hugi (1979) performed a hypnotically and sweaty performance – due to the home-made sauna – coinciding with the Icelandic general elections. While the election results came in on big screens behind the performers and the disbelief of the outcome grew in the dark basement bar in Reykjavik, it became clear that Hugi’s work is one to connect by offering alternatives. In both his performances, installations and videos, Hugi takes his audience on a trip of possibilities and alternate realities – suggesting that the world as we know it isn’t necessarily how it has to be.
Margret H. Blöndal
The fragile sculptural installations and drawings of Blöndal (1970) have a fleeting effect as if they were separating from the paper or background. The isolation of the form enacts the area around the object to literally hold it. In the exhibition Blöndal shows a work of rubber and wood which is exemplary for her other works that mostly consist of found and manmade, and often-overlooked everyday objects. Blöndal is one of the few artists of this list that still lives on the island and is represented by i8 Gallery, one of the most popular galleries in Iceland.
“That Time” – curated by Eva Wilson and featuring the artists above and others – is at Gerðarsafn Kópavogur Art Museum, Iceland, until 18 December 2016