A Window on Iceland
My chosen path as an artist began to make sense, possibly for the first time, in the kitchen of one of my patrons as I witnessed not only the pleasure artwork can bring into a home but also the powerful relationship between people and place. A work of art allows us to bring indoors those places that have moved us in some way. Until this point, Iceland was simply somewhere I hoped I would one day experience in person for its extremes of light and dark, meteorology, geomorphology and geology. As I listened to my patrons enthusing about ‘Iceland’ I knew I needed to witness it in person to do it justice in painting. This exhibition is the outcome of a five day road trip taken in late October 2017 when the daylight was still good and snowfall at a minimum in the country.
Look, feel, imagine and react to what is in front of you. You are not required to have visited this beautiful country to respond to what you see. I invite you simply to notice things and interpret the scenes freely. These paintings are, after all, simply moments in time, the result of my memories, my ideals and often misguided misunderstanding of life, processes and the world within which we live. The entire experience from the planning of the trip through to the hours spent in my studio and up to this exhibition has ensured my own perspective continues to evolve. This exhibition is one phase of my continued exploration of the country, re-visiting subject matter and experimenting with techniques and tools in the future.
I invite you to walk through this collection of paintings depicting my interpretation of a small section of Iceland in the west and south west of the island. I invite you to watch as I explore a spectacular landscape that overwhelmed me and thrilled me to the point of exhaustion. I wish to evoke as many sensory responses as I can by revealing scenes that are in one breath loud and harsh, in another quietly beautiful, bold then subtle, clear then confused, simple then complex. I have tried to capture what I saw and felt, touched, tasted, smelled and heard and they require the viewer sometimes to close their eyes and imagine what it would be like to experience the scene themself.
Many of the works were chosen based on just one feature. On occasions, that was the hanging mist toying with our view, deciding how much of a mountain range to reveal. Sometimes it was the impact a clear blue sky had on defining the landscape beneath. At others, it was the dominance of a feature that had errupted from deep within the earth’s core and settled on the surface. It could be the simple burst of extraordinary colour starkly contrasting with its neighbouring materials. The images represent scenes that for different reasons took our breath away and literally stopped us in our tracks. Only at Gullfoss Falls were we in a position to observe a scene from the top looking down. All other scenes are at ground level looking up. This left me wondering what they may have looked like from different elevations.
This beautiful country represents the stage of development at which a civilised world should stop, learn and listen. People are focused on understanding the natural world that surrounds them and of which they are a part , which allows them to work with it rather than against it. Most of the developed world is still carving up landscapes, driven by a mindset that sees nature as something that must be controlled, harnessed and exploited to meet the needs of the people inhabiting it. Iceland on the other hand felt like a country that was not guided by fear, despite the harshness of the environment, but by a more sensitive, intelligent response, working with its own limitations and those posed by the natural world around them.
A fundamental part of Iceland is the hidden people (Huldufólk). Some things are meant to remain hidden and simply ‘sensed’. The hidden people of Iceland were present in the landscape. Our awareness of their presence allowed us to connect deeply with our surroundings in ways that gave us hope for the future. What we brought home with us was an insight into how little we notice in our world as it transforms over time from a natural state to an industrialised one. We were reminded of how important it is to connect with the natural world around and act as guardians not owners of it!
An inspiration and an acknowledgement
There is a moment of karma that fits perfectly with how this journey came about over a year ago. The tragic death of Rhys Rubery, a truly inspiring young man, has moved me to break free of some self-imposed chains. This entire project has been guided by the ‘Rhys Rubery mantra’ – “Why not? Why aren’t you doing it?” I sense Rhys’ bewilderment at why I could possibly think I should not do something. My heart and thanks go out to Joanne, Jon and Catrin Alys Rubery who enabled such a powerful mindset to develop.