August 17, 2006

Back from Reykjavik

Back from Reykjavik. I can’t recommend this trip too highly; I guess it is just like you’ve seen it on TV – geysers, mountain ranges, glaciers, wild Martian landscapes – though, as a city boy I steered clear of all this outdoor Romanticism. Reykjavik itself: It is an unusual city, low-rise, sprawling, reminiscent of a cross between Douglas and Ramsay (in the Isle of Man. There was a great feeling. Lindsey Gordon from Peacock Visual Arts in Aberdeen recounted from someone else the Icelanders are like the Irish would have been if they had not lived under the English. But the commitment and understanding of contemporary art was marvelous. The reason for my trip was to see Alan Johnston’s show at Safn Museum http://www.safn.is/english/index.html – which I had, in my slapdash way not researched so it turned out to be a 3 person exhibition with Séan Shanahan and Ragna Rόbertsdόttir.

Alan Johnston works are almost invisible. His wall drawings are made of short, irregular pencil marks, closely woven to form recognizable geometric shapes. The Irish artist, Shanahan had some of his ‘trademark’ monochrome paintings on MDF on show which were particularly engaging through the thickness of their presence, but the high point was his steel rod drawing. This consisted of a steel rod passing through the space of all three floors of the gallery. A brilliant exhilarating piece. Ragna had worked directly with the walls, covering one with a square-form of tangerine-brown lava-mud, and a ‘landscape’ of lava chips between glass sheets.

If you have followed that link you will begin to see how important Safn is. Created by Petur Arason since the seventies, the collection is amazing, displayed in a pure white minimal spaces of a converted house with shop front, it features pretty much everybody you would want from Weiner, Long, Graham, Flavin, Buren, Fulton, Horn, Judd, Kawara, Andre, (etc) plus Icelanders such as Rόbertsdόttir, Arnarsson, Eliasson, who I should have known better. There was talk that the future of Safn is uncertain, which is staggering, as I am racking my brains to think of anywhere I like better. Iceland has an international treasure here far more interesting than geysers and glaciers.

I also managed to see a small show of Salvo paintings in the Corridor Gallery. I didn’t know Salvo’s work (though apparently he is really well known especially in Italy – I must get out more) and this gallery is actually someone’s flat. Quite a strange gallery experience.

Petru introduced me to Hafþόr Ybgvason, Director of the Reykjavik Art Museum. Hafþόr had a good chat as he showed me round again exciting if sometimes challenging spaces and we agreed that there were joint projects crying out for us to pursue. http://www.listasafnreykjavikur.is/index.en.shtml
I visited the National Art Gallery which was a nice set of spaces but little artistic merit on show.

It goes without saying that I also began to note for a Reykjavik poem.

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