On Minimalism and Its Uses


On Minimalism and Its Uses

From an exhibition in Skaftfell, Seyðisfjörður.
Ingólfur Arnarsson’s Untitled 11, 2013. Image courtesy of i8.

Sometimes, less really is more. At least that was the lesson I drew from the joint exhibition of Ingólfur Arnarsson and Þuríður Rós Sigurþórsdóttir at the Skaftfell Center for Visual Art in Seyðisfjörður, East Iceland.

The show divides the exhibition space—a large, square-ish room fronted by windows—in an unusual manner. Ingólfur’s works are mounted on the walls, as per convention, but Þuríður’s pieces are placed underfoot, parallel to the floor, despite being conceived of as paintings.

This interest in extending painting is one reason the artists are paired: each is attracted to moving past oil on canvas. The two also share a shimmery color palette.

Ingólfur begins with rectangular concrete blocks. After priming in matte white, he chooses the top or bottom third and adds a single watercolor: pink, light green, yellow, pale brown. The results are simple, but the glowing color and contrasts—matte versus shiny, everyday concrete versus special-occasion pastel—make them come alive.

Here, the sparse installation around the room gives the works the look of windows on a medieval fortification. Or the paintings could be the eyes of an otherworldly creature, gazing benevolently down on the works on the floor.

Þuríður’s paintings are screened on rectangular sheets of silk, then laid on flat concrete plinths. Each includes a background of irregular, usually pastel, panels. Over these, representational motifs such as vines, a Matisse cutout-like biomorphic shape or a reproduction of Rodin’s thinker, are arranged.

But the parts of each painting fail to form a coherent whole. Instead, the works remain a cluttered mishmash of banal elements. Surely their closest relatives are those 101 outfits characterized by a surfeit of peer-approved layers.

From an exhibition in Skaftfell, Seyðisfjörður.

Kristján Guðmundsson’s Faster and Slower Lines No. 2. Image courtesy of i8.

Kristján Guðmundsson’s show at i8 in Reykjavík employs a plainer set of colors: black, gray, correction-paper brown, a little red and blue. Only commonplace materials are used, and forms are simple—primarily lines.

Nevertheless, the works bear repeated viewing. As in Ingólfur’s paintings, different aspects of each piece play off against each other. The materials used in Drawing (1987) appear to have been re-purposed from a pre-computer era office, but the form of the work—all rounded edges—is nothing but space age, ready for take-off.

Similarly, in two pieces using ink on blotting paper, the position of each line is precisely plotted, but the application of ink introduces a joyful irregularity.

Despite their lack of representational detail, Kristján’s works are often evocative of worldly activities or features. The Cause and Consequence series consists of nine panels in which lines are etched on correction paper in rule-based configurations. Yet cat’s cradle, Morse code and Leonardo’s picture of Vitruvian Man all spring immediately to mind.

The works in this show appear so fresh that it’s hard to believe that they were made between 1972 and 1989. Simplicity, it seems, can also act as a preservative.

Ingólfur Arnarsson + Þuríður Rós Sigurþórsdóttir continues through October 25. Kristján Guðmundsson / Works from 1972-1989 runs through October 24.

S. Anne Steinberg [email protected]

S. Anne Steinberg has been looking at art around Reykjavík for a few years now. Her cryptic notes on this activity can be found on @myndlist_list on Twitter.​

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