press release

Two retrospective exhibitions of the works of contemporary artists Birgir Andrésson and Steingrímur Eyfjöro were hosted by the National Gallery of Iceland from May 12 through June 25, 2006.

Birgir Andrésson (1955-) studied at the Icelandic College of Art and Crafts from 1973-1977 and at the Jan van Eyck Akademie in Maastricht, the Netherlands, from 1978-1979. He has held about 50 solo exhibitions and has taken part in about 84 collective exhibitions. Andrésson represented Iceland at the Venice Biennale in 1995. The interplay of words and images has been a crucial factor in the artist’s work, a fact that may, to a certain extent, be attributed to his childhood having been brought up by blind parents, his father and stepmother. He first presented such works at a time when conceptual art based on text had begun to gain recognition. Andrésson himself maintains that his main inspiration in this respect was Jan Douwe Bakker who had made him aware of the potential in the Icelandic national folk culture. Andrésson’s works reflect his interest in the relation between words and perception or daily language and images. Reading and the ability to read becomes for him a source and subject in subtle works in which he brings to the fore numerous and varied questions that concern national identities.

The meaning of nature for Icelanders, past and present, the lost skills and the disappearing colloquial language that belongs to bygone days is uncovered as a reminder of the impermanent nature of culture and the intangible existence of national identity. The artist’s search for a common past inherent in language and his contemplations of the transference of cultural heritage from one generation to the next is mirrored in works that force the spectator to draw his own conclusions and to create his own personal meanings.

Steingrímur Eyfjöro (1954-) graduated from the Icelandic College of Art and Crafts in 1975. He studied at the Edinburgh College of Art in 1977 and then at the Icelandic College of Art and Crafts in 1978. Eyfjöro further studied one year at Atheneum in Helsinki, Finland, and at the Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht, The Netherlands, from 1980-1983. He has held 42 solo exhibitions and taken part in about 110 collective exhibitions. Eyfjöro was one of the founders of the Gallery Suourgata 7, 1975-1979.

In taking a critical look at the concept of nation, and/or nationhood, and the individual’s possibilities for active participation in the shaping of society, Eyfjöro has searched for new ways to activate creative thinking in a perceptual world. This can be seen in his investigations of the functioning of the mind where contemplations are documented in the form of drawings. The artist’s endeavours to grant the individual liberty, as well as the final word, through art, become recurring motifs, being in part a legacy from dada, SÚM, Fluxus and conceptual art. In Eyfjöro’s work one can discern a passionate and open-minded discourse where beauty and the poetical in all creative acts work as interfaces. They are a kind of a journey or exploration turned inwards, in which each and everyone must measure himself against particular situations. Often the works entail a play on the concept of art, the visible parts being the development of the artwork, its creative processes. Eyfjöro’s works pose pressing questions concerning science, religious matters, politics, and Icelandic folk or popular culture. Underlying the whole process one can discern a firm belief in the individual’s natural intellect in a society that continually strives to shape its members in a uniform mold.

Steingrímur Eyfjöro has been nominated as the Icelandic representative at the Venice Biennale in 2007.


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Birgir Andresson / Steingrimur Eyfjörd