Play Along, Recast
15 September – 18 November 2012
Magnús Pálsson, Örn Alexander Ámundason, Haraldur Jónsson, Ívar Brynjólfsson
Play Along, Recast brings together four Icelandic artists who are united in their consciousness of the importance of tone. This is not just about subtlety, because ‘tone’ is to do with ‘tension’, both etymologically and in art. The four artists exploit the difference between what our senses tell us and how we understand the world, but also the correspondence between what has form and what doesn’t have form. The exhibition title tries to capture this complex movement: chronicling reality without visible objection, but at the same time challenging it by translating the untranslatable.
Iceland probably feels quite familiar to many people in Sweden, because of a shared Old Norse cultural heritage, but probably also quite far away: a distant mid-Atlantic relative. Iceland has 320 000 inhabitants and is the smallest Nordic country. It has been an independent republic since 1944. Until then Iceland was ruled from Denmark since the union between the three Scandinavian kingdoms in the late 14th century, and before that it was an important part of the medieval Norwegian empire in the North Atlantic. Already the Eddas and Sagas, written down in the 13th century, show the unmistakeably laconic mix of poetry and pragmatism, intensity and detachment that characterises Icelandic culture today. Nature has also been a crucial – perhaps too crucial – source of inspiration for Icelandic culture. It was only in the 1960s that the Icelandic art established contacts to the international avant-garde.
Magnús Pálsson (1929) is an artist from this period, legendary for his versatility and experimental approach. Paradoxically, his oeuvre is too little known even in Iceland, and he has not exhibited very often in Sweden. From the mid-1960s onwards, after being active in theatre, Magnús devoted himself mostly to sculpture and installations. The exhibition at Lunds konsthall includes a selection of these, among them Gifsbörn [Plaster Children], 1970, and not least Sekúndurnar þar til Sikorskyþyrlan snertir [The Seconds before the Sikorsky Helicopter Touches Down], 1976, a plaster ’recast’ of the interstitial space between the helicopter’s tyres and the tarmac of the landing strip, and at the same time a three-dimensional image of the powerful noise from the engines and the air current. In the early 1980s Magnús made plaster casts of the negative spaces between people listening to or playing music. Later he substituted text and sound and voices for the plaster. Magnús has also been a driving force in Icelandic art education.
Örn Alexander Ámundason (1984) is the youngest participant in the exhibition, but his practice is remarkably close to its fundamental hypothesis – that art has the freedom to try any kind of translation, and that the performative has an intimate but ambiguous relation to the sculptural. Kreppa: A Symphonic Poem about the Financial Situation in Iceland, 2009, is an attempt at direct translation of the political economy (the Icelandic banking crisis) into contemporary ‘classical’ music. In the film Styrofoam, Burlap and Plaster, 2011, the young artist (Örn himself) interprets the arias of two young female opera singers in a series of sculptures from the materials named in the title.
Haraldur Jónsson (1961) will, much like his older colleagues from the 1960s generation, not limit himself to certain means or modes of expression. He works with drawing, sculpture and photography, as well as text and sound. In Iceland Haraldur is also a well-known literary figure and film actor. The playfulness and shifts between dimensions that the exhibition title evokes is always present in his work. The exhibition includes Swedish-language versions of the sound piece Myrkurlampi [Dark Lamp], 2008–2012, and the installation Emotional Wallpaper, 2000–2012. We also show a selection of the extensive photographic series TSOYL, ca 1988–2012.
Ívar Brynjólfsson (1960) describes himself as a ‘fundamentalist’ photographer. He works mainly in black-and-white, and also has a career as a museum photographer and curator at Iceland’s National Museum. Ívar’s images ‘play along’, but they also ‘recast’. Since the late 1980s he has been portraying ‘non-exotic’ Iceland: unsold merchandise in Reykjavik shops, planted trees along the city’s motorways, the most banal use objects left behind in offices temporarily rented by candidates in presidential elections. The exhibition includes extracts from such series: Specimina commercii [Commercial Samples], 1991–2000, Highway Trees, 2008–2010, Pictures from the Presidential Elections, 1996.
Lunds konsthall thanks the lenders for this exhibition: Listasafn Íslands [National Gallery of IcelandI], Listasafn Reykjavíkur [Reykjavik Art Museum] and Nylistasafnid/Living Art Museum, all in Reykjavik, as well as Pétur Árason and Ragna Róbertsdóttir in Reykjavik and Carina Hedén in Varberg. And of course all the participating artists.
Curator: Anders Kreuger