Tag Archives: Art

Reading Iceland

The technique is exquisite. You let the sun and gravity break off a bit of a glacier, you soak it for a few days in salt water, then cast it up on a beach of black volcanic sand. After a night of the waves splashing sand all over it, it sets in the sun. It’s really fun to chase this art form down,. Here’s a troll with a monk in its belly, holding Christ as a child. And isn’t the Mjalður the Bell Ram off to the left? Why I think it is.

If you haven’t read Gunnar’s Advent, it’s time.

Of course, you could just go right to the source, though.

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!