Category Archives: Art

The Bones of Petroleum as an Art Form in Iceland

Once there were fuel stations for travellers. They were built on farms and were the modern equivalent of a service economy that had sustained wealthy farms for many hundreds of years. Some even had garage and tire services and predated the Ring Road of Dutch Camper Company fame. Many of the country hotels in Iceland still follow this old model of serving travellers on farms. The fuel stations are gone now as working centres, though. The more remote of them have been replaced with a lone pump, an automatic card reader, a light, and the bright sign of a national chain in a corner of a field. Not at Starmyri, though!

This translation of a bustling service centre on a rich farm is a bitter story. Once on the gravel road north along the East Coast from Höfn, with valuable shore rights at the mouth of the Seal River…

The Road of the Speeding Camper Vans Crosses the Seal River and Hurtles On

… and a good, sheltered landing, it was isolated by the sea by black sand drifting south by rivers re-engineered in the North during the diversion to create the hydroelectric power for the aluminum smelter in Reyðarfjörður.

Sómastaðir
The oldest stone house in Iceland, rebuilt by Alcoa, and now a National Historic Site, stranded from the sea by the smelter behind it.

The result was a new East Coast built from lagoons and long, black sand beaches…

Your average coastal farm is a long way from the Atlantic now!

…beloved of tourists and useless for farms that live in 1100 years of time, not the continually re-occurring present and fictional pasts and futures of 21st century time.

Reykjavik after the economic crisis.

Still, as you can see…

… the whale bones of an older past keep it company now, as if they were the busts of roman senators on their plinths. This is beautiful art-making. You can see 1100 years of life at once.

Whatever Siberian forest this tree grew in before washing west and south and landing on the Starymyri shore, I bet it never expected to achieve eternity like this! And, yes, at Starmyri, where the sheep pastures have eroded away in the wind…

What passes for a sheep pasture today in Starmyrí, as the winds of a changing petroclimate take all the soil away.

… the shore is blocked by industrial sand, shore rights are extinguished and the road has been moved away from the farmyard, the farm still manages to draw sustenance from travellers.

Each cabin offers an ideal Iceland, framed as a work of art.

Like many important things in Iceland, you have to find the history yourself, on the principle that you only need to know what you need to know and if you find something else, then you know and don’t need to be told, in this country that dresses up as pristine nature, her newest artistic dress.

An old farmer built this artwork in his retirement. The family keeps it in his memory. What a clever man!

What Colour is Iceland?

It’s good to remember that photography is “writing with light.” It is also the capture of light. For example, what colour is Iceland? This?

Or

Or

Only the first is “real.” The other two are manipulated, but I promise, you can find those machine-made colours as well. You just have to wait. There is no real colour. There are only moments.

Just for fun. Winter is best for this game.

Dump Your Unwanted Europe Here

The Icelanders are very clever. They put up a picnic site on top of the hill above Seyðisfjörður, to allow travellers to get their bearings after the steep climb out of the fjord and before the steep drop down into Egilsstaðir. That’s the kind part. The clever part is the picnic sign, as you can see.

See that? Travellers coming off the ferry from Europe get a chance to use up all their stickers at once, in one spot, and then that’s that. Done.

This is the height of summer. You might not want to linger long up here.

What to Do in Iceland When There’s Not Enough Sun to Go Around

As you can see from this view east from Ásbyrgi, the sun in Iceland manages to concentrate itself into little splashes of light here and there, on most days, anyway. That leaves much of it in stunning darkness.

The best thing to do is just to enjoy the darkness. When else are you going to really see it?

Bakkagerðiskirkja in Black and White and Green

In 1914, local boy Johannes Kjarval was starving. Ladies in town asked him to paint an altar for the Bakkagerðiskirkja, the Bakkagerthi Church. He’d spent his childhood herding sheep on the mountain and dreaming of elves, so he painted Christ giving the Sermon on the Mount on the Alfaborg, the elf city behind the church, with all the townsfolk listening, elves and humans.

It has yet to be consecrated by any bishop! But if you go to visit it today, you can see his Iceland still. The elves have been replaced by tourists in campers, and the church remains in darkness, as all good Icelandic interiors are, with 1,000 years of turf houses in their memory.

The Icelandic subconscious lives in a darkness warmed by human presence and looks out through small windows into the light, which is the Earth and not the sun. It’s simply the way it is.

Iceland’s Himalayas

Himalaya Blue Poppies in the Lystigarðurinn Akureyrar

Above the cliff in Akureyri, there’s a fine place to see the world, just a few kilometres below the Arctic Circle. Coming on these beauties on a July Evening is inspiring. In 1912, nine years after men began to plant trees in Iceland to reclaim their male Viking ancestors…

A Hawthorn in Hallormstaður (Hawthorn Farmstead) in the Great Icelandic National Forest

…the women of Akureyri started planting pretty things, bringing embroidery to life. Talk about writing on the land!