Confronting Nature: Icelandic Art of the 20th Century
Iceland, the planet’s youngest landmass, was formed twenty million years ago by magma flowing up through the rift that divides the North American and Eurasian plates. It is a land of contrasts, vast glaciers and erupting volcanoes, the midnight sun in summer and daytime twilight in winter. Its geysers, earthquakes, and lava fields are a constant testimony to geological activity and the planet’s subsurface inferno. This dynamic landscape is part of the Icelander’s national identity. It has played a role in the formation of Icelandic artists since 1900 when the visual arts made an official debut with the first exhibition of landscape paintings by Thórarinn Thorláksson.
The four great pioneers of Icelandic landscape painting — Thorláksson, Jonsson, Stefansson and Kjarval — laid the foundation for a national art with landscape as the central theme. Instead of dwelling on the harsh challenge presented by the country’s natural environment they gave the landscape an idyllic glow. Later they emphasized its rugged strength, stirring sentiments of national identity and pride. While confrontation with nature remained an ongoing preoccupation throughout the 20th century, Icelandic artists also responded to international artistic developments. The visitor will encounter works that range in style from abstract to Pop, from conceptual art to neo-Romanticism. The exhibition encompasses a variety of media including photography, video and installation based art. Within this diversity nature is a constant reference point. The artists may work in Paris, Berlin and New York, as well as Reykjavik, but the imprint on their art of Iceland’s volatile and dramatic nature remains.