Iceland review - 2002, Blaðsíða 33

Iceland review - 2002, Blaðsíða 33
“There is a certain purity of air which is Icelandic.” Kristín Gudrún Gunnlaugsdóttir scrutinises the late morning light out the window of her second-storey liv- ing room. “You can see distances really clearly here.” This light is the one specifically Icelandic characteristic that Kristín can pinpoint in her own work. “When I was a little girl and we went abroad, my father, who is an Icelander, used to say, ‘It’s a pity you can’t see clearly.’ For him, it was always a bit foggy and misty. The outlines in the distance were not as clear.” Maybe working in such lucidity helps Kristín illuminate the interior worlds of her paintings – it would explain the marked clearness of vision in her classical figurative paintings that brings the remote themes of spiritual longing, nostalgia, and man’s separation from God to life with warm, disarming clarity. In 1987, Kristín left Iceland to live in a convent in Rome for a year. “I just wanted to have a break from everything I knew, and the world,” Kristín recalls. “It felt like coming home, in a way,” she says of her time there, where a resident nun taught her the art of icon painting. “My need to go reflects a certain longing inside me for quietness, and contemplation, which has always been a part of my work.” While subsequently in Florence, she studied the pre-medieval art that she still employs to depict her spiritual world. Her contemporary body of work is united aesthetically and thematically; each paint- ing is unmistakably hers. Kristín has always worked full-time as an artist. Since returning to Iceland in 1996, she has made downtown Reykjavík her home with her children, Melkorka and Killian, and their father, Brian FitzGibbon. “Iceland is a very small place for an artist, but Reykjavík is the limit to survive. It’s difficult here even, but I’ve always survived like this, so I’ll stay like this.” She has received two state grants from the Icelandic Ministry of Culture, and one year-long grant from her hometown of Akureyri. In Stykkishólmur in western Iceland, Kristín was commis- sioned to paint the largest oil on canvas altarpiece in the country: a luminous Madonna and Child, completed when she herself was pregnant. “The world is getting fuller and rounder. I used to focus more on one aspect in a painting, but now I try to grab it all,” Kristín says. In the past year, she has begun to incorporate landscape into her work. She completed her first large-scale landscape painting, ‘White Mountain’, in 2001. “I just feel like I’m up to it. Maybe it’s because I had my children. I’m more down to earth.” Still, she assures that the landscapes she’s beginning are purely imaginative and not grounded in Icelandic geog- raphy. “I used to go out and talk about art,” Kristín contin- ues. “Now I do much less of it. I’m at work more. I’m more independent, and I’m more personal in my art.” Her focus on the psychically distant subjects of her paint- ings becomes sharper and sharper each year. “I feel like a polar bear on an iceberg – I’m on my own. I’m just doing my thing here.” “My need to go reflects a certain longing inside me for quietness, and contemplation, which has always been a part of my work.” Krístín Gudrún Gunnlaugsdóttir 26 IR302 - Carnegie bs-rm 2.9.2002 10:46 Page 31
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