This article was published in Iceland Review online
What is time? What is it exactly we are measuring by seconds and minutes? How does time flow? Is it reality or illusion? Those questions inevitably come to mind when trying to ponder the fundamental nature of time.
Review by Victoria Cross, photos courtesy of the artists.
The current exhibition at the National Gallery brings together three female artists—two from Iceland, Gabríela Fridriksdóttir and Gudný Rósa Ingimarsdóttir, and one from Switzerland, Emmanuelle Antille—in an exploration of the elusive concept of time. Though the exhibition is united by the theme, its layout separates each artist’s work into individual halls, indicating that it can be viewed as three separate art shows.
The first floor of the gallery is devoted to the work of Emmanuelle Antille. She has been working with video since the start of her artistic career, exploring family ties, interactions between different social groups, human feelings and desires. It is important for her as an artist to generate real emotions in the spectator, and video installations provide her with this opportunity. The body of work that the artist displays for this exhibition consists of two video installations, drawings, and a series of portraits—altogether entitled “Tornadoes of My Heart.”
This project focuses on the world of teenagers, the time of life when everything is uncertain and unpredictable, when rules can seem so constricting, and when moods can change so quickly and dramatically. The tornado image is central to this series as the artist sees it as a representation of teenage life: “It is powerful, violent and unpredictable, although it can vanish in the air as fast as it appears, and in the end it is only wind,” Antille says.
The turbulent emotions of two young men, at the threshold of adulthood, are explored in the video, “Kill me twice, dear Friend, dear Enemy.” It is shot as a documentary and centers on the love-hate relationship between two best friends. The Tornado, the central image of the series, appears here as a silent witness of their self-destructive relationship. It frames the segments and also closes the movie.
“Kill me twice, dear Friend, dear Enemy” by Emmanuelle Antille.
The second installation, “Floating, Crashing…,” focuses on the rituals, codes and language between teenagers of the same group. Six screens surround the viewer in a small darkened room. There is no escape from raging emotions, repetitive chanting of the lyrics, and images streaming from the screens. The defensive layers of the skin are instantly penetrated and the impact goes straight to the soul.
“Portrait series” by Emmanuelle Antille.
In the hall filled with portraits of teenagers, one particular piece caught my attention—a series of drawings with a poem. “The Wasted Lyric” was written by the artist, but it could as well have been a teenager’s writing, discovered in somebody’s diary. Its crude language can be shocking, but it mirrors the love-hate relationship of the videos and shows the unexpected vulnerability and tenderness of its author:
…I won’t turn away
I’ll hide you under my skin
Keep you in my belly…
“Wasted Lyric” by Emmanuelle Antille.
One the second floor you will see the work of Gabríela Fridriksdóttir. This is her first exhibition in Reykjavík since 2006. If Emmanuelle’s work, though symbolic, is grounded in reality, Fridriksdóttir creates a surrealistic universe, and populates it with peculiar creatures of her imagination.
Her drawings, sculptures, and video work intertwine with each other; the drawings appear in the movies, and black rocks from the video can be seen at a table in the center of the hall.
“Centerpiece” by Gabríela Fridriksdóttir.
Both videos presented in the National Gallery (“Inside the Core,” 2006 and “The Ouroboros,” 2007) are imbued with rich symbolism, steeped in Icelandic landscapes and ancient sagas. “Inside the Core” explores the timeless theme of creativity and the agony of searching for inspiration, while the “Ouroboros” deals with unity of life and death, dual nature of all things, flow of time and eternal presence of nature.
The idea of “Ouroboros” is based on the ancient symbol of a serpent devouring its tale and forming a circle. In its broadest sense it represents the continuality of life, where the end is often a new beginning and the new beginning often marks the end of the past. The artist describes the “Ouroboros” as a “journey through the seven vertebrae of the snake, which together create a universe of souls.”
“Ouroboros” by Gabríela Fridriksdóttir. Photo, copyright: www.we-make-money-not-art.com.
The work of Gudný Rósa Ingimarsdóttir provides a vivid change from the more assertive styles of the two previous artists. Muted colors, transparent materials, and delicate paper cut-outs bring you into a world of calm concentration. “Requiem,” which the artist chooses as a musical accompaniment to her visual work, deepens this atmosphere. Her abstract drawings recall the world of biology in their shapes, repeated honey comb patterns, and precise numbering, but Ingimarsdóttir steers clear of specific references, leaving the field open to any number of associations and feelings.
“Scared by stupidity” by Gudný Rósa Ingimarsdóttir.
Ingimarsdóttir’s layered pieces bear the traces of memories—old notes, maps, and wallpaper are often used as the background for her work. Some of them even carry physical elements of time, like wallpaper in the vitrine below, which has been rolled for nearly 50 years until the artist forced it open and brought it back to life by cutting out the outlines of the flowers, allowing them to blossom.
“Vitrine-wallpaper” by Gudný Rósa Ingimarsdóttir.
Ingimarsdóttir’s work is about “duration of time,” an endless journey between past and present, where time is measured not by seconds but by the recollections of precious moments. “Every line made has a tendency to place me physically somewhere—taking an old drawing (paper/document earlier handled) places me back into a situation, awakes feelings no longer accurate but worth looking into and analyzing.”
A time-framed passage to adulthood, the empirical time of archaic myths, the universal time of abstraction… all can be viewed as isolated entities as well as integral parts of the complex ever-changing whole.
The exhibition is on display until May 1.
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