In the early 80s, during the artistic Renaissance in Iceland, the art scene embraced a variety of boisterous and provocative styles. It took a while for Georg Guðni Hauksson to find his own.
The young painter joined the mainstream at first but his disposition towards landscape sceneries, generally considered as old-fashioned and uninteresting, led him to a different dimension. Unlike most of the creative representatives of his generation, he decided not to keep up with the time and eventually invented a method to transcend it.
A recently-released documentary, Sjóndeildarhringur (Horizon), directed by Bergur Bernburg and once Oscar-nominated Friðrik Þór Friðriksson, (Children of Nature; 1991), opens the door to Georg Guðni’s limitless world. Once you enter it, you feel that there is much more to it than you can see. And if you want to get the idea of what it’s like, it’s necessary to slow down—the way the artist did—and learn to watch the immovable.
The documentary places you in the studio of a man whose delusively simple know-how made him stand out in the crowd three decades ago and fueled by his diligence and devotion has kept him in the limelight ever since.
Not only did he manage to revive the old theme of landscapes, but year by year—until he passed away in 2011 at the age of 50—reaffirmed the agelessness of the world he had chosen to mirror in his paintings.
To the viewer’s surprise, in the film the great Georg Guðni appears unpretentious and easygoing when dealing with life and the people around him.
Though his reflections on his work sound as if he’s bidding farewell: “I paint the mountain out of my mind and I paint myself into the mountain,” it’s more of an evidence of the craftsman becoming one with his craft. Georg Guðni assures that a painting brings itself to life—it’s a successive act that makes the picture look like it was composed of time layers.
“He had the landscape inside him,” marvels actor, artist and publisher Viggo Mortensen. This conclusion is accompanied by other eloquent comments from art historians Bente Scavenius and Hannes Sigurðsson, professor and painter Bernd Koberling, Georg Guðni’s widow Sigrún Jónasdóttir, and his colleague Einar Garibaldi.
In Georg Guðni’s mysterious canvas, the spectacular doesn’t play the lead. His paintings are about things that seem trivial but remain vital, like air, which, according to the artist, is different after the rain—more saturated and tangible.
Georg Guðni compares himself to a man who is lost and strives to realize where he is and what surrounds him. The film inclines you to take the same perspective—to plunge into contemplation, which is liberating since you feel no pressure from the narrative. The storyline itself just takes its time without anticipated culmination.
After 80 minutes, which is the documentary’s full length, the door you entered in the beginning is left open and you might be able to return to your thoughts again while scrutinizing the next sunrise or sunset as the eternity captured in one moment. “When you consider the horizon,” comments Georg Guðni, “the space in question is the area from the back of your head and into the infinite.”
Sjóndeildarhringur (Horizon) is produced by Horizon (Sjóndeildarhringur ehf.)/ResearchGruppen ApS. It will be screened at Busan International Film Festival, South Korea, in October.
Yaroslava is a journalist focusing on environmental issues, intercultural dialogue and problems of threatened identities. Before she moved to Reykjavík to do her master’s at the University of Iceland, Yaroslava had been working mainly in Ukraine.
She started as a staff reporter in daily news program Time at 5 TV Channel specializing in politics and culture, then contributed to the local edition of National Geographic and several national newspapers such as The Ukrainian Week and Mirror Weekly. During the revolution of 2013-2014 in Kiev, she was Icelandic national broadcaster RÚV’s fixer.