Here in Tórshavn the sun is shining and it is a beautiful though cold day. This Saturday the summer exhibition opens at Steinprent, which is a highpoint during the summer period – the main season for art in The Faroe Islands with many visitors, Faroese students, and others arriving. Also on Saturday, a group exhibition in Klaksvík opens, and next Saturday another exhibition featuring Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson opens at Nordic House, and we are looking forward to it.
Steinprent's Summer Exhibition 2019 (opening Saturday 1 June at 3pm), is this year about space in art and art in space: the artists’ own space and the exhibition space itself. The exhibition title appears in an interview from the Liverpool Biennale, where the artist Hanni Bjartalíð tries to put into words the starting point of his artistic inspiration. Bjartalíð claims that his ideas come from a special place; his own room. There can be no doubt that space is fundamental in Hanni Bjartalíð‘s works – both in pictures and sculptures, but not just that. In addition to the space we experience in works of art and the space these works occupy, visual artists have their own space, and these are the spaces that form the focal point of this exhibition.
Over many years Hansina Iversen, with consistency and sophistication in equal measure, has researched the possibilities of non-figurative painting, gradually developing her ‘image space’. Where the picture space in the 1990s was synonymous with form on a background (often the chalk-white primed canvas), today it appears much more complex. While individual shapes appear as two-dimensional as the surface on which they are painted, elsewhere one senses a tremendous depth and power in formations that overlap each other and which, depending on where the eye rests, appear to flit back and forth in an ever-rolling motion.
In connection with Hansina’s large solo exhibitions at the Art Museum and in the Listahøllin, at Tórshavn Shipyard, we have been seeing formations and brush strokes in the exhibition space itself as a murals and sculptures, where they provide a different architectural function as parts of the room. Such a mural in situ Hansina Iversen will paint for the exhibition MY OWN SPACE and we look are looking forward to that!
This is exactly what Anný Ø.Djurhuus is working on in her so-called pop up exhibitions in our parks and other places where she establishes an exhibition space and fills it with stories that are told in a dreamlike and poetic way, with different readymades presented in combination with organic natural material. We look forward to Anný's new installation work, that she makes for the exhibition, too.
Rannvá Kunoys monumental work, After History, requires the viewer to move from the exhibition space and up a flight of stairs in the gallery – a sign of a work that is and can be something special that overtakes the viewer and at the same time makes up for one of the basic principles of painting; namely to be fixed in time and space. Due to a special pigment, Kunoys’ work changes colour according to the light in the room and in relation to the viewer’s location, which together with the composition, method and size of the work, makes the actual experience of the dynamic, intangible, and even unmanageable to comprehend, and impossible to capture in a photograph. One has to give time to look at Kunoys’ paintings and dive into the jumble of picture elements assembled in several layers of letters, words, lines, and unknown sign systems. Suddenly, you find that the work opens up and falls into place in a brilliant clarified composition in perfect balance and harmony.
Silja Strøm’s work is about both balance and equality, with her sense of social consciousness being profound. Although the images are partially figurative, one cannot divide the image space into the usual intermediate and background divisions here. Instead, all picture elements are placed on one and the same level and distributed over the entire image surface. Equality also results in interesting relationships between her figurative and abstract picture elements, where the latter seem to interact within the overall picture narrative.
Next is Zacharias Heinesen (b. 1936) and Tóroddur Poulsen (b.1957). Although they are placed at the different ends of Faroese art history and are quite different – one as the founder, the other who renews – Heinesen and Poulsen have more in common than you would think. They are both from Tórshavn and have used their hometown both visually and poetically. The former has studied his own room countless times and it is exactly the view from his own living room at Varða in Tórshavn, that his work is about.
This view of Tórshavn, with Nólsoy in the background, he knows better than anything else, but even though his clear image interpretations of both city and country are so convincing (we perceive them as realism) they are probably more of a form of light-inspired colourist vision with intensely pure colour dancing between violet and yellow, green and red, blue and ochre. Tóroddur Poulsen's beautiful Tórshavn pictures are also definitely colourist – here is his so-called ‘iristryk’ or iridescent ink, where the colours flow together with a myriad of decorative lines, dots, patterns and drawings, together forming a form of constructivist ornamentation that could resemble both childlike calculations and topographic aerial photographs of the city.
In the brothers Torbjørn Olsen and Marius Olsen's pictures, interior space is often an important part of the outside space. For Marius Olsen, it is through mirroring, for example; a lamp or other picture element occasionally enters both the viewer’s and the picture's outside space, and in the gallery, it may appear like a unidentified flying object. In the case of Torbjørn Olsen, pictures often appear in his work in a similar way to those seen in the baroque master, Velázquez. In the real world, the ‘picture within a picture’ often arises from the window in the artist's studio, which like some altarpiece paintings appears unearthly, as a form of portal into what is beyond. Torbjørn has, for this exhibition, made entirely new monumental interpretations of inner and outer space that merge.
In four new lithographs by Mie Mørkeberg, the picture space is fluid; here the artist places women in or around the element of water and gets the maximum out of the many layers of colour that gives the work an intense, almost tactile feel, appearing like a tapestry or a velour surface. Against this almost luxurious colour surface, it is as if the constituent parts of the image surface that are without colour form a negative (or near-abstract) space.
The picture space in Zven Balslev's lithographs also appears full and intense. The style of his figurative and abstract images is a rather raw and reminiscent of underground comics with a surreal character, where abstract and figurative are apparently presented without any higher meaning, instead possessing humour and vitality. Several of the prints that Bjørn Nørgaard has produced in Steinprent are composed of several picture, meanwhile. In the lithographic series, Everybody can be God, who are you? The space is composed over a line of text, which in most cases is a song title – for example As time goes by or There are places I remember – each being used as the title of the works, too. These phrases have more or less disappeared in the course of the graphical process under several layers of colour and motifs in the images, however, which generally lose their original clarity. In the colour haze, though, we repeatedly recognise religious figures from different cultures, on which simple strokes have been laid as a form of sign that may have some form of semiotic connection with the aforementioned song titles; Je ne regrette rien is provided with as a determined statement by the artist that he dares to stand by what he does, for example.
MY OWN SPACE is thus a varied and entertaining exhibition, which offers an idea of what is happening currently in contemporary art here in The Faroe Islands across the media of painting, printmaking, sculpture, and installation.
(Translated by Ian McKay)
MY OWN SPACE | Summer Exhibition 2019
1 June – 3 August 2019
The Faroe Islands.
Participating visual artists are: Hanni Bjartalíð, Hansina Iversen, Anný Ø.Djurhuus, Rannvá Kunoy, Silja Strøm, Tóroddur Poulsen, Mie Mørkeberg, Zven Balslev, Marius Olsen, Bjørn Nørgaard, Zacharias Heinesen and Torbjørn Olsen. Curated by Kinna Poulsen.