For the last few days I have been in Reykjavik with Andy and busy pretty much the whole time, so I’ve not been able to write until now, on the plane flying home again.  I have 2 workshops coming up in the next few days when I get home as well, so with the prep for those and driving back to Hull for Andy’s Grandma’s 80th Birthday party, there’s not going much time for writing and so this will be my final Iceland post.

During my little stay in Djupivogur, spending time with the other artists and people involved with the Rolling Snowball/6 exhibition, it became increasingly more apparent that I had been lucky enough to be part of something really special.  I would say that every single other artist involved in the exhibition was much more established than me.  I mentioned this to Ineke and she very sweetly said, “That’s not why we pick the artists’.  It’s been great spending time with all those interesting people.  It was exciting to leave my three Tree Socks paintings in China and be reunited with them again Iceland.  I would never have imagined that when I was working on them in my little studio in Xiamen.

I heard some great stories over those few days.  They all think it’s very funny that Ineke always used to be known as ‘The wife of Sigi’ and now they hear people refer to Sigi as ‘The husband of Ineke”.  I was talking to Annelie about how there are too many artists wanting to show their own art and not enough people like her and Ineke who want to make artistic projects happen, but who are not actually artists themselves.  It’s very commendable that they do this I think, as it’s no coincidence that there are more artists than organisers.  We self obsessed artists generally fail at making such great things happen, as ultimately our main concern is our own work and under pressure, we all start to behave badly and become stubborn and testy.  We rely on people who are the opposite, who are interested in the work of other people and who bring a group together to make something happen which is much bigger than individuals.

Ineke and Sigi looked after everyone really well, without expecting recognition nor payment.  Ineke almost disappears into the background at times when you’d expect her to take the cue and revel in the glory.  It was May who stood up and made the CEAC speech alongside the Icelandic Cultural Minister and the Chinese Ambassador and who jointly cut the ribbon to officially open the show.  But May works so hard, I am sure Ineke feels she has more right to take on this role than anyone.

Here are more pictures of the show which I took on my proper camera.  Highlights for me were a performance by Danish Artist Bjorn Noorgard, a sculpture by Icelandic artist Por Vigfusson, (a line of rectangular perspex boxes, which looked clear from one angle and blue or yellow from another) and a film by a very nice Dutch artist called Guido van der Werve. The film was called ‘Nummer Twee, Just because I am standing here it doesn’t mean I want to’ The film starts with him walking backwards into the road and getting knocked over by a car.  I asked him how he managed that and he said they just did it (!!!!) with some practice but basically he got his mate to run him over.

I met a Chinese artist called Kan Xuan who was incredibly sweet and had just flown in from exhibiting in Milan.  Ineke told me how she met Xuan.  She said she saw her in a film (I didn’t quite get this bit, whether the film was made by Xuan or by someone else, but I like the bits of Ineke’s stories that I don’t quite understand so let’s just go with it). Ineke decided she wanted to meet her so she got someone to locate her and they were due to meet in Beijing.  There was some more of a kerfuffle and finally when they met Ineke couldn’t speak Madarin (she still can’t) and Xuan couldn’t speak any English.  Anyway they kept in touch and Ineke helped her to apply to art school in Holland.  Xuan had to learn English to have her interview but she still wasn’t very good so when they did the telephone interview she read a letter she had written out loud on the phone, then she said can’t speak any English and asked them to let her in and put the phone down!  But she got in, and now she is one of China’s most important video artists.

I spoke with Xuan more when we were waiting for the exhibition opening to start.  She was sat on her own on the rocks, looking out to sea, eating dried fish which she shared with me (it was surprisingly nice) and she told me about her life as a video artist.  She lives in Beijing and then travels to all sorts of other places to make art and exhibit, but she still has to get work doing more commercial film related stuff as there aren’t really many opportunities to earn money making video art in China.  She did a project for the Italian car manufacturer Maserati when it was their 100 year anniversary.  They wanted to sent a team to drive one of their cars from China to Italy and she was asked to go along and film it.  It sounds like an incredible journey.  She said she would often go off early and drive in front of the rest of the team so she can get to the stopping places first and be on her own for a bit.  It sounds like Xuan likes being on her own.  She’s staying in Iceland for 3 weeks now and she says she’s not going to do anything, including making any art.  I kept questioning her about exactly what it was she did intend to do and in the end I pinned her down to thinking.  She wanted to stay for 3 months but it’s her Dad’s 80th birthday and her mum said she had to come back for it.



The day after the exhibition opening I drove all the way back to Reykjavik and met Andy there for 3 days of tourist fun.  Reykjavik is a fantastic place.  I won’t bore you with the holiday stories but I would really recommend it.  We saw some great art including work by Richard Serra, who, when interviewed, commented on the fact that there aren’t many uprights in Iceland and I thought, yes that’s exactly it! Here’s another of Sigi’s sculptures on the seafront in Reykjavik.  Like the eggs but stones.





I’ve a lot to say about today’s events but it’s a long drive back to Reykjavik tomorrow and I need to go to bed, so will fill in the details when I am back from Iceland and for now, here are a few pics of the exhibition including one of the culture minister looking at my work.



… and here is a drawing I made this morning…



…and Sigi’s eggs



I was just about to leave the hostel this morning, when the owner knocked on my door and said that I had a visitor, which turned out to be Ineke!  She said she’d been last night also with May and Sigi but they couldn’t find me.  It’s a bit strange at the time when they came I think I was in the living room sitting at the table but they couldn’t find me.  Anyway it was very nice to see Ineke and luckily I had just packed my bag to go out as she said, “Come on lets go”, in true Ineke style and I didn’t really know where we were going but it didn’t sound like I had much time to faff around.

I hadn’t really realised that Sigi still lives in Iceland sometimes and it turns out that they have a house and car here.  So we went to their house where everyone was staying.  But first we went to see the exhibition, which is still being set up, but all going to plan will be finished today.  I was wondering how they would show my paintings, as Ineke told me she had taken them off the stretchers, but it turns out they have a carpenter and all sorts of other people working on the exhibition, so my paintings being stretched on new stretchers was probably the least challenging thing they have had to deal with.  There is someone outside constructing a big massive sculpture out of metal and inside there is one room dedicated to 2 massive projections.  It’s all very exciting.  I promise to take lots of pictures as soon as I can.  Ineke also showed me one of Sigi’s pubic artworks which was right next to the old fish factory building which is housing the exhibition. It is a long line of egg sculptures which are all unique in shape and size, to represent the different birds that visit the village.  You can see pictures here on the Djupivogur website and read about how it was constructed if you know how to speak Icelandic. It’s all rather impressive.


We then went to Sigi and Ineke’s house which turned out to be just down the road (so was the fish factory) and May was there.  It was so nice to see May and Ineke again, just like being in China but in Iceland instead.  The house has the living room and kitchen on the top floor, all open plan and with windows all around so the view you get is fabulous.  It’s all wooden inside but on the outside covered in metal.  I am finding it quite hard to find the words to describe the houses in Iceland.  Generally I wouldn’t call them pretty and to me they look a lot more modern than they really are.  Ineke and Sigi’s house felt really different on the inside with its Scandinavianesque design.

I also met Annelie Musters who runs the CEAC residency in Iceland.  They showed me the exhibition catalogue  for Rolling Snowball/6 which is really nice, presented like a little book and includes 4 images of my work.  They had some of the purple flowers from the fields that I mentioned yesterday in the flat and I asked Sigi about them.  He said that they are a plague all over Iceland and like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock film.  They are some kind of Lupin and taking over everything apparently.  Sounds a bit sinister, I’ll have to look it up.

This afternoon I went out drawing and made this work.  It was colder today and a bit rainy at times so I couldn’t do much work with ink as I spent most of the time drawing inside the car, trying not to get it dirty!

I am meeting the CEAC lot for dinner at 8pm so I might write some more after that but otherwise it will be after the exhibition opening tomorrow, which is at 3pm and I have been told that the Icelandic Culture minister and the Chinese Ambasador will be there……

…… Main points to report from the meal were:

I met lots of nice interesting people.  There were lots of toasts and some singing.

Ineke and Sigi bought two massive fish heads from a fisherman today and they brought them to the restaurant for the chef to cook. The whole lot got eaten Chinese style (I think probably Icelandic style also). Sigi’s brother ate the eyeballs.

After the meal we all went back to an old peoples home which has been turned into accommodation for tourists because none of the old people wanted to live there because they actually wanted to stay at home, so it only ever had one person living in it. We then got chucked out because we were making too much noise and keeping the guests up.

It is really strange at night when it is still light at midnight. Your brain is tricked into thinking it is not bedtime.





So I made it to Djupivogur in one piece, almost without my suitcase.  When I arrived at the luggage collection, everyone else picked up theirs one by one until there was just me and another guy left standing.  I told the lady at the service desk and she gave me a form to fill in which a thought was a bit premature as she’d not even made efforts to locate my suitcase.  We were discussing the logistics of Easyjet dropping it off in Djupivogur within 3 days before I return to Reykjavik when the man who had also lost his came to tell her that it had just come out with the baggage from the next flight.  I went to look and couldn’t believe it when eventually mine came out as well. What a relief, especially as it contained my sleeping bag which I need for the hostel I’m staying in and art materials I’ve brought with me.

So off I set in my little hire car for almost 9 hours that should have been 8 hours, but I kept stopping along the way to take pictures of the fantastic views.  There isn’t much traffic in Iceland and I just needed to follow road number 1 pretty much all the way.  I am getting used to the gear stick and the indicator being on the other side but am not so good at co-ordinating them.  I have only driven on the left once so far. The roads here are all single lanes and no one drives that fast, which is good because every so often a sheep decides to walk into the road in front of you and also there are these disconcerting Icelandic bridges which are made of metal or wood and make a loud noise when you drive over them, but also just before the bridge, the road turns into one lane only for both ways and there’s no indication as to whether you or the person coming in the opposite direction has right of way.  There are loads of places to pull up at the side of the road along the way which is necessary for all the incredible views.

There is incredible variety in the landscape.  It is a patchwork of green farmland, gravel, fields of purple flowers, strange bumpy rock, sometimes covered in a thin layer of green, rocky hills with bits of green, snow, and snow topped mountains.  It changes from one type to the other in an instant and the weather is just as temperamental, with blue skies one minute and then sudden black cloud and rain the next, then back to blue skies again.  Then there were the icebergs! They suddenly popped up at the side of the road as I was driving along and I wasn’t really expecting it as I suppose I thought you’d have to come off the main road to see things like that.  I’ve never seen an Iceberg before. They were amazing.  Here’s some pictures from my journey.  I wish I’d been able to take more but I couldn’t keep stopping all the time or I’d never have made it to Djupivogur.


And here is Djupivogur.  It’s a little fishing village with a rich history.  When I turned up at Klif hostel the lady gave me a tiny single room even though I’m booked into the dorm, as I’m travelling on my own.  Isn’t that nice.



So I managed to make a stretcher (with a lot of help from Andy) and stretch my big ‘Container Island’ painting for the Cork Art Gallery, with little fuss.  I couldn’t quite believe it went so well. I also had to re-paint the sky because it got damaged on the way back from China, but that went remarkably well also.   I was a bit worried when at first the canvas was really loose and sagging near the corners.  I borrowed my friend’s canvas stretching pliers which I’ve never really been a fan of but I’ve changed my mind about them now.  Also I was very fortunate that the canvas I used in China seems to have been impregnated with seize as, when I wetted the back it tightened like magic.

The exhibition opening went well but I wasn’t able to show my little video as I spent ages and ages getting it onto DVD and then the quality was just not good enough.  It was too late by the time I found out I could buy something to connect a USB port to my TV and then just run it off that.  I’m going to do a talk on 23rd July about my China experience and the work relating to it, so I am going to try and get the video sorted for then.

Anyway, here’s some pics of the show including some of the work in there that I might not have posted on here yet.



So I go to Iceland tomorrow and other than that, my task in the next few weeks is to prep for various workshops and work in my ‘proper job’ to earn as much money as possible for the going back to China fund.  It’s really difficult to decide what work to do and how much of it.  I had this plan to try to separate my time into periods of working for money intensively and then making art intensively, but it’s been difficult because opportunities come up to exhibit or run workshops (I get paid of course but is more stressful and takes up more brain space than my proper job) and I feel I need to take them.  I have a few things booked in between now and November and I’m not taking on any more.  I need to be disciplined and I need to be ok about not making art and knowing that money is time and if I have proper, uninterrupted time I will make better art.

I will have a day or so to make work while I am in Iceland.  Well that’s the plan anyway.  From Thursday to Sunday my only set agenda is to get to Djupivogur, go to the exhibition opening and come back.  I’m bringing drawing materials, ink and watercolour paper.  At least I don’t have to worry about it getting dark if I want to do some drawing in the evening.  On Sunday I meet Andy in Reykjavik and we do the holiday stuff for 3 days.  I hope I get time to write my blog while I am there.   I’m really looking forward to seeing May and Ineke!