Iceland review - 2002, Blaðsíða 35

Iceland review - 2002, Blaðsíða 35
Georg Gudni stands three feet back from a bare white canvas, ready in its easel. He’s looking at it with his head tilted, pointing at it. Something’s on the tip of his tongue. He’ll leave the canvas up like this, untouched, until it tells him what to do. “It’s like a conversation,” Georg explains – between the cloth, the paint, and the landscapes in his head. We’re standing in the bright light of his basement- level studio, just outside of Reykjavík. Georg has been building this house from scratch for over a year, layer upon layer. The studio was the first thing done; the rest of the house evolved around it “from the inside out”, Georg laughs. He lives here with his wife, Sigrún Jónasdóttir, and five children, who are 14, nine, five and three years old, and one just three weeks old. Today, the studio walls are hung with several studies of a horizon, the most recent phase in his work. “It’s more complicated than you would expect when you’re looking at a flat horizon,” he says, gesturing to one large canvas in progress in the centre of the room. Georg will spend anywhere from six to nine months on his large pieces, constantly revisiting them, applying layer after layer of paint. He has been studying how the sky and earth meet in horizons for the past two years. Before horizons, it was mountains. Before mountains, it was valleys. When Georg first started painting landscapes at art school in Reykjavík, they were “topographic” – depicting actual formations in or around the Reykjavík area. In 1987, Georg became focused on a single angle of Mt. Esja, overlooking Reykjavík, moving into a phase he calls “geometry”. He painted this angle again and again, where the mountain and sky met, until he “got so far in” to the phase that he couldn’t envision returning to land- scape at all. It was at this moment that his work stopped being representational and, by the early ‘90s, Georg started to paint the “collective landscapes” that he con- tinues today. Every one of these collective or imaginary landscapes is a conglomeration of morning, day, and night, seasons, places, and qualities of light. Georg says that for this to work, “You can’t do some- thing untrue. For imaginative landscape, you must believe in it.” For this reason, “It’s more difficult than painting something you can see in real life.” What is his particular relationship with Icelandic landscape then? When he sees the land in other countries, it’s as if there’s plexiglas between himself and his view. This layer does not separate him from Iceland, giving him total access to his subject. Even in a 1996 residency in Stamford, England, Georg continued to paint his native landscape from sketches and memory. Georg pulls his sketchbooks off the shelf above his stu- dio computer, flipping through the slim black volumes, their pages stiff with paint. A sketch is just “one of the layers of a painting”, says Georg. “That may be the rea- son why when you are working on a painting, it is a com- pilation” of different images sketched over the years. Sometimes there are no sketches that lead him to a work. Sometimes it may be just a colour study. Either way, these volumes of raw material are testimony to his process. Though their pages may never find their way into finished work, they offer a glimpse into the evolu- tionary process through which the blank canvas in the corner of this studio will eventually learn to speak. “You can’t do something untrue. For imaginative landscape, you must believe in it.” For this reason, “It’s more difficult than painting something you can see in real life.” Georg Gudni 26 IR302 - Carnegie bs-rm 2.9.2002 10:57 Page 33
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