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ASI Art Museum, Reykjavik | 2007



Installation in windows and on walls with cut-out-foil, oil on canvas, mural and silk-screens with graphite and aluminium.

Oddny Eir & Jon Proppe

Writing in the Weathered landscape

For two decades, Guðrún Kristjánsdóttir has honed her approach to painting and to the landscape on which her paintings are based. Her early works were abstractions, almost geometric in construction but still derived from mountains etched against the sky, or cliffs silhouetted against the mountainsides. Already at that time, Guðrún also worked on transposing her visual material out of the paintings, creating relief sculptures of jagged lines, formed in metal, that echoed the line of mountain peaks, massed in the distance.

Next came series of paintings where the horizon provided the constructional basis of the painting and the emphasis gradually shifted from the geometry of shapes to nuances of light. In these paintings, Guðrún developed her techniques in rendering remarkable subtle light in simplified, rigorously constructed compositions, using mostly blues and blueish-greys, the colours of distant mountains. Eventually, the horizon disappeared altogether and the mountainsides took over the canvas, spilling of the edges in all-over compositions that focused exclusively on the fine gradations of light and shade with a slightly expanded palette, though the paintings still remained almost monochrome.

As a logical extension of this work, and of her continuing investigation of the visual landscape of Iceland, Guðrún started to record the shapes left on the mountainsides by receding snows in the spring thaw or etched by winds. This had the dramatic effect of highlighting the moving lines that the weather, as it were, writes across the sloping side of the mountains, using their cliffs, gullies and ravines as a ground, leaving its marks on the leeward sides, in the craggy depression of the sheer surface. With Guðrún’s technique, this writing comes into the foreground with its undulating shapes and lines, made soft again by the continuing erosion of the wind and rain.

This materials has informed Guðrún’s paintings in recent years and they probably remain the clearest expression of her approach, but she has also expanded it into other media, prints, videos and by transferring the shapes and lines directly onto walls or glass windows, using paint or cut foil. By combining these methods of presentation, Guðrún creates a whole environment where the weather-written lines come to surround and encompass the viewer, much, perhaps, as Koran-based calligraphy surrounds and encompasses the faithful in Islamic architecture. The twelfth-century geographer Adam of Bremen wrote, enigmatically, of the Icelanders that they viewed mountains as other nations saw cities. Perhaps he could have added that the signs written by snow and wind replaced for them the holy writing and books of other nations. This writing cannot, of course, be read in any sense parallel to the writing of men but it nevertheless requires of us a sort of literacy, a faculty and a facility for reading that lies precisely in the merging of abstracted thought with our immediate experience of landscape that Guðrún Kristjánsdóttir has been at pains to teach us and which we experience so clearly in her work.

Jón Proppé


being in snow
I look at it melting
between mountains I read the land
while dark runes on sloping white
give hope of spring
white letters in spindling growth
recall winter


then wispy fog obscures the page
hiding and revealing
in a kind of dance
this strangely written weather



staring at a land
of constant changes
my attention shifts
at the edge of an abstract
and some newly found surreal
so the difference between
the simple and the ornate blurs
and opens up a space
for layers of perceptions


which I project onto foreign frames
and new born screens
being in time-lag
between mountains
in thaw

Oddny Eir