2018 Body, Material and Space / Líkami, rými og efni, Reykjanesbær Art Museum/Listasafn Reykjanesbæjar, Iceland
Listening to bodies, materials and spaces
To listen to the body, and to listen to material and space is a magical action we all engage in at every moment, but we seldomly pay attention to. Perhaps we don‘t pay attention to it because we have been taught to disconnect from our bodies, and to forget the fact that we are sensing bodies. The systems we are raised in in Western societies make us believe that our rational mind is separated from the body and that all thought and knowledge is created through our conscious rationality. But these systems are becoming weaker, not least because the understanding of the human being that they are built on are gradually being replaced by a new understanding of what it is to be human. We don‘t understand the human being anymore as a rational, autonomous individual that stands outside its environment and controls it through rationality, rather we understand now that the human being is an embodied relational being that is intertwined with her environment, and her mind is intertwined with her body.
This understanding of the human being shows us that as bodies we are at every moment being influenced by our environment at the same time as we influence it. Right now the brightness, colors and objects in the space I´m sitting in, the darkness in the space outside the window and the sounds I hear on the other side of the wall are influencing how I sense myself and my thoughts in this moment. In the same way all the spaces I have been in before, all the sounds I have heard before, all the thoughts I have read from other people‘s works, are influencing what I am thinking and writing right now. Since I was a fetus in my mothers womb layers and layers of everything I have sensed in the spaces I have dwelt in (whether material or immaterial spaces) have built up the whole of what it is to be me, to know what I know and think what I think. This is the case for all of us. Everything we do and think springs from what we have heard around us whether we were listening in a conscious way or not. All our knowledge is in our bodies that are our connection to the materials and spaces we have bonded with through time. As bodies we are relational beings.
When we think and create we can be aware of this, or not. We can make ourselves believe that as separated minds we get ideas like lightning into our brains and then we go through a process of finding the right material or the right words to put our idea into form, materialize it. We can also admit to ourselves that our ideas do not come from outside like lightnings, they come from within, the source is the body and what the body has sensed through its listening (consciously or unconsciously) to its environment.
What do we do when we listen consciously as bodies to materials and spaces? Instead of beginning with an idea to materialize, we begin by listening to the material around us and how we connect to it in the space we are sharing with it. We direct all our attention to the material, open all our senses, allow ourselves to be with the material and the space it is creating with us, and we listen to how the body responds, we listen to its sensibility. Rationality takes a break for a while and we just listen with focused attention until something starts to move; the heart starts beating faster, the stomach jumps or butterflies start flying around it and then a need emerges to shape something, say something, flow into the material and let it speak through you. A need to share with others what you are experiencing on the inside, so that this conversation with the material and the space can become a new conversation with other bodies. In this type of listening we find beauty.
The paradox in all of this is that we are always listening, hearing, receiving the meaning of materials and spaces through our bodies – even when we think we are starting with an idea to materialize that idea is in fact emerging from this continuous conversation we are having with materials and spaces at every moment. But there is a special kind of magic involved in listening in a conscious way, to notice that we are in this conversation, to allow yourself to feel your sensibility speaking through your body in a conscious way. And there is also a special kind of magic involved in being reminded to listen to materials and spaces in a conscious and open way, waiting with excitement for them to tell us something, and noticing how they can speak differently to each one of us. That is precisely what Eygló, Ólöf Helga and Sólveig do with their works. Thanks for the reminder. Text by Guðbjörg R. Jóhannesdóttir
2018 Another Space/Annað rými. The Living Art Museum/Nýlistasafnið, Reykjavík, Iceland
Works by Eygló Harðardóttir gather together in Another Space, like crystals in constant growth, like reactive moments to accumulated material in process with the artist. Some works assist in displacing the space they occupy by implying an alternate to it. Others ground it, fasten it and make us aware of it. They often weightlessly balance upon colour, content and a trust in found unaltered components. They assemble with a sense of impermanence and build new space.
For Eygló, works are an intuitive approach to the material with no planned or perceived endpoint in sight, rather a means to marking moments on surfaces. She explores edges, structure, potential and discards, and employs the opportunity to shift these things. It is often more than not that the remains of a long conversation with the material becomes the work we view in the end. In that process, and here in the exhibition, we see it stretched out, suspended, adjusted and re-arranged.
One of the focal points in Another Space, is an assembly of drawings created while the artist was under hypnosis. Drawn in a state of parallel consciousness, with enhanced focus and concentration, the images are attached to different regions of the body including the neck, heart, stomach, brain, tailbone and face. With this knowledge the immediacy of the experience translates into a question of another space. They have become layered prints and stand in as a thread running through the exhibition, the above question always present in the background.
Eygló’s attention is drawn to the energy between things. In that draw there is uncertainty, but there is also most certainly possibility. Her work can be characterized by materiality and process. Like momentary collisions, portable and temporary occasions that bring with them a sense of groundlessness. A feeling of floating between here and there with linear time replaced by a cyclical or growing logic. Text by Becky Forsythe
2016-17 Conspiracy of Pleasure/Nautn. Akureyri Art Museum/Listasafnið á Akureyri, Akureyri and LA Museum/ Listasafn Árnesinga, Iceland
The focal point of this exhibition is the various laws and manifestations of pleasure. New works from six artists who approach the concept, each from their own perspective and premises; open up a dialogue on the role of pleasure in a philosophical, artistic, and worldly context. The works display obsessive manifestations of modern consumerism and sex life, the flesh in art, the human body as a symbolic phenomenon and inspiration, or simply the primitive pleasure which often accompanies art creation during the struggle with material and texture, compulsions and fetishes.
Where do the boundaries lie between normal and humane nurturing of pleasures and joys, on the one hand, and submitting to them without restraint, on the other hand? When does anything become a fetish? What is the difference between sensuality and excessiveness, eroticism and pornography, beauty and kitsch, desire and addiction, ambition and greed, lofty goals and nonsense? And who has the power to put forth these definitions?
The catalogue Nautn / Conspiracy of Pleasure was published by the museums. Various programs and talks followed Nautn / Conspiracy of Pleasure; artist’s talks, talks about various aspects of pleasure and conspiracy: Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir writer and art historian, Ágústa Ragnarsdóttir visual art teacher, Markús Þór Andrésson author of the text in the exhibition catalogue and head of the Exhibition and Education department at Reykjavík Art Museum, and Salvör Nordal director of the Center for Ethics of the University of Iceland.
2015-16 Eyborg Guðmundsdóttir & Eygló Harðardóttir at Skaftfell – Center of Visual Art, East Iceland
Eyborg Guðmundsdóttir (1924-1977) and Eygló Harðardóttir (born 1964) are artists from two different generations yet whose work shares common concerns around the description of space and the function of colour.
Eyborg Guðmundsdóttir’s work uses distinctive geometric forms and vibrant colours to suggest confounding spatial paradoxes. Although she had regular studio visits with Dieter Roth, and when she went to Paris studied with the op-artist Victor Vasarely, her paintings transcend these specific influences. They display a continuity with the op-art movement yet also incorporate elements of pop art, in their suggestion of the structures of the modern and physical world. The paintings can appear deceptively simple, yet they often employ ingenious compositional strategies, to create the illusion of three-dimensional space. In relation to this aspect the constructions of Eygló Harðardóttir could be thought of as models of the suggested spaces of such abstract paintings. While Eyborg’s paintings appear as objective and hard edged, the sculptures of Eygló are more speculative and tactile in nature.
For Eygló Harðardóttir there is an attention to the ways in which colour functions and affects the perception of an object. Her choices of material and construction approaches give the objects a particular immediacy. In a sense the work displays something of the notion of bricolgae, that is using materials that are to hand for efficiency of articulation. As such the work can be seen to appear as propositional, as a possible states of existence, rather than an ideal one. In respect to Eyborg’s paintings, these rough forms appear to question the possibility of the former’s objectivism. They seem to suggest that the real world can’t adhere to the idealism of the abstract pictorial plane.
This exhibition presents two bodies of work which engage with the nature of of abstract composition and the ways in which its forms accrue meaning and significance. The work of Eyborg seen in relation to Eygló’s gives a comprehension of the ways in which her concerns are still pertinent to artists working today.
Text by Gavin Morrison a honorary artistic director at Skaftfell 2015-16. Gavin runs a small project gallery in the south of France, IFF, and directs Atopia Projects, a curatorial and publishing initiative, while also working freelance curator and writer.
2015 Relational System/Venslakerfi at Harbinger; Artist-run Space, Reykjavík, Iceland
The positioning of the works creates a context. They were produced with the space in mind, and deal with three-dimensional painting. Through technical and material experiments with paper and wood, the works have developed into layered paintings and patched-up sculptures. The obvious, material information in the work is intertwined into relations and systems which can be affiliated with the physical, subjective and obscure dimensions of human existence. They do not deal out concrete results, but guess at possibilites. They speak perception and tactility, rather than facts and logic. What ignited the process and influenced the making of the work was the material of which they are made, some natural phenomena and its material being, texture or light – physical perception which causes a spiritual reaction and vice versa. The work reflects the colloquial world we experience and which is formed by reactions arranged in a relational system.
Text by Eygló Harðardóttir
2015 Parallel Views at Týsgallerí
These days artist Eygló Harðardóttir is exhibiting her work at Týsgallerí, at Týsgata 3 in Reykjavík. The exhibition’s heading, Parallel Views (Samsíða sjónarhorn), refers to a specific method of displaying three dimensions on a two dimensional surface without perspective, a technique used in Eastern classical art, architectural drawings, and computer games. This connection to isometrics triggers ideas about a world where all dimensions are close and of equal importance.
Eygló works with visual phenomena. Explorations of this form are never the endpoint of her works, but rather one of many parallel dimensions in a multi-layered process. Phenomena like afterimages evoke questions such as what impressions or events from the surroundings elicit ideas, and whether it is even possible to comprehend that relationship, or the function, between inner and outer reality. The works in the exhibition which refer to architecture are reminiscent of ruins or abandoned farms where the inner and the outer world have merged, or nature re-joining the man-made. The afterimages and the impressions exist like material phenomena and real events, although they possibly exist on a “finer” frequency and are not defined by time and space. Each image calls for another; each colour conjures an opposite colour, like some kind of perverse echo or a reply.
Eygló uses delicate and pliable materials, but her process is safe and stable and the materials strengthen during the process. One of her works, a type of wind gauge, is more reminiscent of a horizontal millwheel than a traditional wind gauge which turns without resistance. These works have gone through numerous permutations during their creation and as such, encompass these transformations. The process is transparent and the raw quality of the works keeps all options open. The spectator needs to be susceptive to tiny aspects, such as the granulated edge of a paper which serves as a gateway into the work because it literally opens up the material, creating a fusion between the work and the spectator. The exhibition works (painted sculptures/three-dimensional paintings) thus have a direct physical effect and need to be experienced first-hand. Both the materials and the interpretations are open; they are penetrable.
A review of the exhibition, written by artist Kari Ósk Grétarsdóttir. Published by SÍM, The Association of Icelandic Visual Artist in Stara no 3, online art magazine: http://issuu.com/stara-sim/docs/starano3/58?e=1
2008 The Village, ART Ii Biennale, Finland
Eygló Harðardóttir – The Village
When concrete made its entry into Iceland the early twentieht century a new chapter began in the history of Icelandic architecture. Farm buildings with turf walls disappeared into the past and wooden houses became less common. Concrete had a positive impact on the standard of living and became the main construction material. In recent years it has been associated with greed and excessive optimism as construction projects far exceeded the need for housing. Eygló’s Harðardóttir’s choice of material and title for this environmental work that refers to a cluster of houses makes this history an underlying subject for Village. The four blocks are made of concrete that has been cast into the ground like building foundations. The outside walls of the pieces form a framework for a base that has been divided into smaller compartments. In spite of this connection the pieces do not resemble replicas of whole buildings, but are more like fragments from a larger planned project. The small blocks reach halfway up from the ground where they stand open and exposed to all kinds of weather. Wind-blown leaves and rain have easy access to their bottom where they can accumulate despite of a drain linking it with the soil. Therefore water and vegetation residues may temporarily become part of the work and influence its meaning. Withered leaves and rainwater arouse thoughts of abandoned buildings, whether ruins of an old village or remnants of a relinquished building site. The Village may give the impression of desertion but it has also a more profound meaning as a symbol for the psyche, the dwelling place of intangible thoughts and feelings. The mind receives constant stimuli from the environment that it processes and stores in different zones as souvenirs. Those are made from real contacts with both nature and society. The cluster reminds us that isolated events we may encounter are interrelated and affect our perception of the world. The inner walls of the blocks indicate a spiritual dimension of transformation that appears from a dreamlike reflection of so-called color-remains from the environment. The peculiar brightness of these pale colors counterbalances the thick concrete but together they reveal a fainting memory. Our quest for experience and its mental transformation shape the core of Harðardóttir’s work as she boldly lets herself be guided by intuition that travels the border of dreams, memories and the concrete.
Margrét Elísabet Ólafsdóttir. (Margrét has been a journalist since 1987 and lecturer in modern and contemporary art history at the University of Iceland and in new media art history at the Arts Academy of Iceland since 2002. Margrét is a founder of Lorna, an association for electronic arts and a co-member of board at the Icelandic Association of Philosophy)