ON BEAUTY, COHERENCE AND
UNITY OF FORM AND CONTENT
Ólöf K. Sigurðardóttir, Director of Hafnarborg Centre of Culture and Art
COHERENCE Exhibition Catalogue, 2018
Published by Hafnarborg Centre of Culture and Art
The artists Guðjón Ketilsson and Hildur Bjarnadóttir channel their ideas through pieces where coherence and unity of form and content draw the viewer into the artists’ own footsteps. While they engage with the aesthetic subject of art, they explore their personal environment and history in such a way that the viewer finds himself in familiar territory. Wonder and familiarity are intertwined as the choice of material and the presentation of the pieces speak to diverse senses and experiences of material, space, history and the presence of the artist. Hildur Bjarnadóttir makes use of women’s traditional working methods in pieces that describe her connection to her origins while they also refer to a general connection to culture, history and nature. Her pieces connect generations of women through a personal image of Hildur’s relationship to her grandmother. She extracts colours from plants which her grandmother planted on a pocket of land in Hvalfjörður as long as 70 years ago. She uses the colours in watercolour paintings and to dye yarn which she exhibits in the form of balls of yarn and utilises as material for knitting and crocheting. The colours are extracted from an array of plants both native to the area and planted later. The sojourn on the grandmother’s land connects the artist to the land and the earth her grandmother nurtured while she becomes connected to the earth and the soil as signs of fertility and progression. Photographs of old and experienced hands teaching young hands to knit and young hands assisting old ones in the same task show this progression well. A connection to origin and cultural background also emerges in photographs of mittens Hildur knitted to keep her grandmother warm, using her grandmother’s methods. Although the connection to the grandmother, the crafts tradition which she imparted and the pocket of land which she cultivated are Hildur’s conceptual source, she utilises the material to tackle space so that the tiny subsumes the large. Crocheted colour surfaces, from yarn which Hildur has dyed, become a large piece which takes over a public space and becomes disengaged from its author as part of a larger context in the exhibition space. The plants that connect Hildur to place and person have become part of a piece which has wider reference and is linked to artists’ engagement with aesthetic subjects.
Guðjón Ketilsson finds material form for his ideas in sculptures and drawings. He imbues everyday objects with new value in the context of art while engaging with traditional subjects on aesthetic grounds. His vision and sensitivity to the beauty that exists in an inconsequential piece of wood captures the viewer and draws him into Guðjón’s visual world. Guðjón’s Wood Collection reflects on places he has passed through but also on his connection to wood as material. Wood Collection has been created in the course of a year, it is categorised and indexed with reference to the place where it was found and its history. The indexing of time and experience is also visible in drawings of houses which carry the title Sundays in Norðurmýri and the concrete sculptures Norðurmýri, windowless forms drawn from houses built in the inter-war years. The formality of the houses and the lifeless environment demonstrate emptiness and stagnation which Guðjón connects with Sundays. Thus public space is given unique meaning as an interpretation of personal experience of time and space. The texture of the day, in Guðjón’s mind, is transferred onto the environment and connects the perception of an environment and inner experience. Texture and structure are critical parts of the sculpture Surface – Structures, which is made from found furniture. The furniture has at some time belonged to a household and been part of people’s daily lives but here they are a whole where form and structure form the unity of the artwork. Specific items refer to existence and personal history while they seem devoid of their characteristics by making texture and surface homogenous. When we look at the piece more closely, the wrestling with texture and the surface of the items becomes obvious. Guðjón works with the surface of the piece’s individual parts and fills up spaces which form in the stack with materials that provide texture and consolidate its structure. The surface is reminiscent of skin or a membrane which envelops the piece so that its whole and unity become as one continuous body. Surface – Lines are then drawings of skin and other body parts connected to sensing, such as eyes and ears. The artists’ use of material is in many ways different and refers to their cultural background and environment. Hildur works from women’s crafts tradition but Guðjón’s sense of material is connected to wood and rather more masculine working methods while they both engage with traditional artistic subjects. Natural materials are dominant in the pieces and the presence of the artists through personal approach is very strong. They both have a keen eye for the unique which through their work becomes a symbol of the general, with wide reference to history and the present. Hildur and Guðjón’s pieces have in common that their choice of material and conceptual content form a unit where perfect coherence reigns.