Texts About Three Artists
Echoes From the culture house by Hverfisgata
Helgi Þorgils Friðjónsson
While admiring the paintings of Helgi Þorgils you will likely notice the presence of birds, fish, and other animals depicted in nature. On occasion, a nude man will come into view as well. The landscape and the animals are Icelandic and the man bears the likeness of the artist. Even so, he does not appear to be placing direct focus on himself, nor Icelandic nature. The images reflect general inquiries regarding the connection between man and nature, regardless of geological location. They bring forth questions about, for instance, the difference between man and animal. Are they equal, or is mankind superior due to its capacity for self-awareness and the development and comprehension of languages? Conversely, are animals perhaps superior because they are free and closer to nature? Helgi Þorgils looks into the past and turns us towards classic paintings of times long gone. He also finds inspiration in myths and historical, often religious symbolism. The artist will often play with reflections in his works. Fish will look up from the sea, where they are reflected, and birds will swim in water, and be reflected. Reflections are interesting to puzzle over, as well as being aesthetically pleasing. They also bring out a feeling of peace and comfort, and they're certainly important to the composition of many art works.
At The Culture House there is a large painting by Helgi Þorgils called ''Fish of the Sea'' from the year 1995. It portrays a man surrounded by various animals. The works here at Landakotsskóli are from a similar time and in them you will find similar imagery.
The pictures show man both individually and as part of the larger context of nature and society. Among his paintings there is one that features a matchstick and a potato, paying homage to classic still life paintings. Such works use foods and other perishable objects to remind us of the fragility of human life. Nothing lasts forever.
The works of Sólveig Aðalsteinsdóttir can be categorized as experiments of sorts with memories and time. As time passes, our memories come to change and some things are completely forgotten. Memories are, of course, stored in our heads, and from there we draw our ideas. How would they change if we tried to remove them from our bodies, by drawing, photographing, or otherwise framing them visually?
Sólveig also examines the ways in which objects can carry memories with them. She keeps with her interesting items that are now obsolete. Once they no longer serve a purpose, they can be displayed as art works, causing people to think about times and how they change, both for people and things. Sólveig reminisces about past environments, from her childhood, for instance. How was the flat she grew up in shaped? Our surroundings, both natural and manufactured, have a strong influence on us.
At The Culture House one can find Sólveig's book, Fjallahringur Reykjavíkur frá vestri til vesturs, from 1981, where she has drawn the horizon around the city on a two-metre long and thin paper that can be folded into a harmonika. Could one recall the mountains when they are not visible before their eyes? Here at Landakotsskóli one can find works by Sólveig that map her walks around Klambratún with her dog. The circle which she walked each time marks the depicted form. She has also wrapped old things in plastic, and it's questionable whether people will notice how well it is packaged?
Guðjón's sculptures and drawings remind us of man, though they aren't of bodies or people. They point to all the things that follow us, like houses, furniture, construction tools, clothing, hair stylings and shoes, all extensions of the human body. We need so many things to get by in the world, primarily things we create ourselves because we can't find them in nature. Guðjón is especially interested in examining various man-made objects. His works awaken questions about the worth of our creations. If an object is made without a purpose, is it automatically an art work? Can construction tools be art works? What about houses? What if the tools don't work, and the house is uninhabitable? Guðjón's works show us that despite their differences in use the tools we make have many things in common. We're always looking to form similar shapes and mould our surroundings in tune with ancestral experience.
At Safnahús one can find Guðjón's 2011 work Surface/building. It is composed of used furniture that Guðjón has collected and polished to colourlessness, so that their wooden innards are clearly seen. Sporadically, he has drawn new surfaces over the various pieces of furniture that resemble skin. At Landakotsskóli one can also find works that blur the lines between wood and skin, as well as drawings of houses that appear to have no windows. Having lost their inhabitability, could they be drawings of sculptures instead? Or of treasures of sorts? He has also drawn chests filing cabinets that look like buildings.
Translated by Emma Ashley