Tag Archives: Art

Iceland’s Stones of History

It is the horizon that marks the way across Iceland. It is there, where soft rock broken apart by fast-moving glaciers shows itself against the low, high-latitude snow, that one sees the difference between the impossible jumble of the near and the impossible formlessness of the distant.

It is the most basic cultural act to set up a human marker in that spot, in the most recognizable shape: a human guide. The jumble and the white-out become intimately more human, as a deep, psychological break between darkness and light. It clears the mind …

… and you find the way, exactly at the point, the ridges, where the wind blows the snow away. For most of Iceland’s history, these cairns were the difference between life and death as one travelled across country. Here at Litlafoss, it guides herdsmen out of the canyon pastures and away from the cliff where the raven nests and waits for you to slip and break your head. You can see some of these cairns on the left of the image below, although the one above was on the right and out of the image.

For Icelanders, these cairns are some of the deepest history in the land, and one of the historical markers of the creation of Icelandic culture.

They are to be approached with the reverence with which one approaches the caves at Lascaux or the Sphinx, and so are the glacial rubble fields that inspired them. Walk lightly in Iceland. Nature here is historical space.

You pass through history to get to the falls.

Litlafoss

To find the falls, you must go deep into the earth.

Art for the Eye in Reykjavik

Ásmundar Sveinsson sculpted things for the eye, to give it delight as it sorted light and form before sending information on to the brain for further massaging. A trip to Reykjavik is just a pub crawl if you don’t get to the Ásmundarsafn, the gallery set up to show his stunning work.

It was a concept that has not yet seen its day. Perhaps you will be the one to expand on it?

These weren’t intellectual interpretations of human forms, human work and human engineering. These were delights made for the eye. Go on, don’t you think your eyes deserve some glee?

Note that the quality of the light is part of the effect that he was sculpting. I’m afraid that moving these away from their native environment just wouldn’t work. Off you go, now. Treat yourself!

Country Life / City Life in Iceland

You might as well mix it up, eh.

In Iceland, even the grass has a mind of its own.


And the clouds.

This makes farming hard. There are even traffic rules for tractors in downtown Reykjavik!!!!!

Well, you can always make some art.

And the geese have run away for the day.

Under the cover of the rain.

Sheep, too.

Just try to make a living like that!

Can’t even walk across your field without breaking a hoof.

And the fields are vertical. Tricksy.

And your horses are begging from passersby.

Sheesh.

You wind up commuting into town for work, that’s what.

Danger in that in summer too. Not enough tourists in the summer in the rain to keep down the grass.

Note to self: bring a weed whacker.

After all, gas is expensive.

And the artists have gone strange.

It’s not normal, you know.

 

Good thing there’s golf!



Well, yeah, the wind’s blowing, but, hey, you know. You can always pretend its not there.

Right?

Right!

 

 

The Hunt for the Best Art Gallery in Iceland

Is it goofing around with a culvert at Grandatorg?

Or lunch at the Kjarvalstaðir gallery?

Or goofing around with shop windows on Laugavegur?

Or just goofing around at Laugarnestangi as the sun comes up over Viðey?

Or a goofy farmer’s field on the way to Dettifoss?

Or a whole town goofing off at Kópasker?

Or an aluminum smelter buying allegiance with a pretty thing on Sæbraut?

Or doing more with less on Laugavegur because you need more with your less?

Or just goofing off with a little bit of security magic on Frakkastígur?

 

Or the painting amusing themselves at Kjarvalstaðir, because everyone has come to lunch with old friends, and the paintings are certainly old friends.


Or outdoing Mondrian in a sheep farm in the Fljótsdalur?

Or some weird kind of planting flowers to give children hope in front of some everybody-comes-to-Iceland-with-spray-cans-now-that-the-building-sites-have-been-abandoned-after-the-financial-meltdown, because what else?

Or politics? Is it an art gallery, too?

It’s the cigarette tin, right?

No, wait, it’s the riding stable signage in Akureyri!

No, wait! It’s spilled paint and a stick on a parking lot!

It never ends. Icelanders are a pretty serious looking bunch, even Björk, and they write about gruesome murders and stuff, and their novelists kill off all their heroes and heroines just because, but don’t believe it, because they’re always goofing off, with a straight face. Do you think the horses taught them about this, in those centuries of isolation?

Well, maybe not the straight face part.