Feature of the Week: Paradoxical Painting


Feature of the Week: Paradoxical Painting

Thrándur Thórarinsson is a young artist who paints with an old hand.

Published in the No. 3 2010 May-June issue of Atlantica. By AldaKravec, photos by Páll Stefánsson.

After wrapping up his last exhibit in January, Thrándur Thórarinsson wastes little time getting to work on his next project. “I’m thinking of calling it Capricci Paintings,” he says and motions to the large 2 by 2.5 meter work in progress behind me, which depicts a familiar scene in Reykjavík nowadays: a public demonstration on Austurvöllur, the town square in front of Althingi. But there is something decidedly anachronistic about this depiction. A man stands on a soapbox addressing a crowd, all of whom are dressed in clothing more reminiscent of the turn of the 20th century. “Those police uniforms never even existed like that here and you can see that I have adjusted the architecture in the background more to my liking.” By incorporating fanciful elements into his otherwise realistic cityscapes, Thórarinsson thus pays homage to the capriccio style that emerged among 18th-century Italian painters.

Born in 1978, Thórarinsson is a young painter immersed in an old-world aesthetic. He spends most of his days in his studio-cum-apartment in downtown Reykjavík painting oil on canvas scenes with old masters such as Rembrandt and Goya in mind. Thórarinsson’s subject matter, however, remains decisively local as he draws heavily from Icelandic history, sagas and folktales. He has painted dramatic scenes from Njáll’s Saga as well as popular legends such as the enchanting Merman, the gruesome Grýla and the disappearance of Reverend Oddur from Miklibaer. He has visually rendered momentous historical events such as the Christianization of Iceland in 1000, the beheading of the Catholic bishop Jón Arason in 1550, and the Turkish Abductions that took place in the Westman Islands in 1627. Thórarinsson’s work is thus putting a face on collective memories that have been preserved since the settlement period largely through oral and written traditions.

You can read the remainder of this article in the No. 3 2010 May-June issue of Atlantica, a sister publication of Iceland Review.