Working with black Icelandic sheeps’ wool, I completed a couple of pieces of work about Thought and Memory while at the residency in Blönduós (referencing Odin’s two ravens Hugin and Munin).
The larger piece is made up of two separately felted surfaces to which I have added loose knitting and Icelandic horsehair. The two smaller pieces are similarly made but one with green and the other with white wool positioned convexly.
My own thought and memory, as mentioned in a previous blog, aren’t quite as well functioning as they used to be. Gaps and cracks occasionally appear in the progression from the brain’s initial intention towards fully conscious awareness and recollection. Communication and expression become at times a little disrupted and fragmented. There can be discontinuity and imbalance. This is seen in the holes in-between the two sections as well as on the surface and around the edges of the larger work. Even in the smaller pieces blank spaces are exposed in the networks that link our thoughts and memories.
Further work progresses now in the home studio using materials brought back from Iceland and will continue to feature the two elements of Hugin and Munin, Thought and Memory, in anticipation of an exhibition by Textile Echoes in the not-too-distant future.
Reykjavík, another place full of contrasts! Beside the Old Harbour is the spectacular architecture of the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre. Henning Larsen Architects and Icelandic studio Batteriid Architects, in collaboration with artist Olafur Eliasson, completed the Harpa Centre in 2011.
A hive of activity and flooded with light from the basalt inspired hexagon metal structures which hold the clear and coloured, irregular glass windows. Henning Larsen Architects and Icelandic studio Batteriid Architects completed a concert hall and conference centre in Reykjavík, Iceland, in collaboration with artist Olafur Eliasson in 2011. From the exterior the viewer could be reminded of the scales of fish, the industry on which Reykjavík was established.
The design of the interior allows the various levels to seen simultaneously as the spaces have been opened up, allowing them to flow both visually and physically as you walk down gradually sloping stairways.
At the other extreme, a short ferry ride away is the small Island of Videy. A beautiful unspoilt natural place inhabited by seabirds waders and geese.
The peace and quietness was a marked contrasts to the rowdy festival atmosphere of the Old Harbour area of Reykjavík the Sunday when I made the journey.
It is the perfect situation for Richard Serra’s Afangar (1990) Standing stones, nine locations – two elevations. ‘(Stations Stops on the Road, To Stop: Look: forward And Back,To Take it All In)’ … sign posts encouraging the walker to pause and look both ways – to become fully aware of their environment. Nine pairs of basalt columns located on the west of the island perfectly in harmony and useful perches for the fulmars.
Finally, The Nordic House by Alvar Aalto provided the middle way. Built in 19…. as a meeting place for the Nordic people provides classic Aalto modernism and details.
The large north facing windows provide a wonderful view over the city while the library is flooded with light and perfectly proportioned with cleverly concealed office space and well lit stair structure leading down to a cosy and inspiring children’s library.
These final days of our visit to Iceland have allowed me the luxury of a transition period to reflect upon how different life has been here. Watching spectacular sunsets at 11.30 pm and working, unintentionally, until 2.00am because it is still light outside was both relaxing and extraordinary. I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like in the wintertime with only four hours of daylight. This experience will stay with me and continue to influence my practice. It has made me challenge the structure of how I work and opened my eyes to new palettes and remarkable colour combinations. I am looking forward to continuing to develop my ideas and incorporate this experience of Iceland into a new body of work to exhibit with Textile Echoes in the spring of 2020. My thanks to A-N for the bursary which allowed us to develop and extend our initial plans, access more opportunities for research and make full use of local resource.
Today we leave Blönduos after our months residency here at Textílsetur. We have met interesting people and made new friends, who are mostly taking their leave today but hopefully we will see them again, we shall certainly follow their progress.
It has been a wonderful month and my thoughts move from my discovered ‘leavings’ to what I am leaving behind.
Firstly, the birds. A wonderful surprise to have such a wide variety of birds arriving here during the month from all over the globe for the breeding season.( I counted 43 different species) I leave them to raise their young, to then start their long return journeys at the end of the summer. There are already a number of goslings being escorted by their parents on the river Blanda.
As we head for Reykjavík today we leave behind the landscape that has so influenced our work, in all it’s wide, expansive, rugged glory, the spring flowers erupting and grasses turning to green as the sheep and their young are sent out on to the hillsides for the summer.
I also have left behind some warp that I used for my Leavings III piece, tied up and ready for the next interested resident to make something of.
I leave the mesmeric view from my window which changes day by day, often hour by hour and has become part of a piece of work yet to be completed.
In passing through this wonderful place, I will be leaving nothing of myself, I have been no more than a shadow as it passes in the changing of light, but I am taking a very small collection of the smooth dark stones that made up a nearby beach. I had picked up a handful and arranged them in order of size on the studio table, as their shadows, thrown by the very bright evening sun appeared I was moved to make some photographs, inspiration for a new project. The arrangement, like me, was just passing through,
the stones were returned to the beach and I like the shadows they made, are no longer there.
What is still there, however, is one of my favourite gloves, which I must have dropped yesterday afternoon, if anyone finds it do let me know.
My intentions for this residency had been to be absorbed by the Icelandic culture and be inspired by these new surroundings. I wasn’t prepared for the impact this would eventually have on me.
It didn’t take long to settle in to the Textile Centre in Blonduos, our new home for one month and it didn’t take long for me to become inspired. Although initially my motivation came from the incredible land formations it became clear I had a need to reflect the feelings I was experiencing. The astounding feeling of space with the spectacular endless landscape had to be expressed. I set to work on a piece that reflected this continuous impression. I wanted to involve all the colours around me, the volcanic sand and sea, glacial rivers and valleys, lava fields, mountains, farmlands and plant life.
During my stay I read the book ‘Burial Rites’ by Hannah Kent about the last woman to be put to death in Iceland after being accused of murder. It was a very haunting and descriptive book on rural life in north Iceland in the 1800’s. This furthered my understanding of the Icelandic culture and the changing nature of the landscape throughout the seasons.
From all this inspiration I created ‘Continual’, a piece using a wrapping technique with mostly Icelandic materials, including fish leather, horse hair, sheep fleece and many balls of Icelandic wool.
I felt I needed to take this piece to the beach where my feelings of space had been reinforced. So, on our last day after exhibiting it as a vertical hanging I stretched it out along the shoreline and took lots of photographs. Both these ways of displaying it were in contrast to each other but both expressed this feeling of a never ending space.
Unfortunately, Just as I am working out how to express my thoughts it is time to go home and I can’t help feeling I need more time. The work will obviously continue and hopefully develop from my memories of this unforgettable place. I have discovered a new appreciation for nature and am very excited to expand my knowledge, particularly with natural plant dyeing experiments to help express the essence of the landscape.
With just a few days to go before we leave thoughts have already been turning to home – back to the familiar, the usual everyday. Back to family, warm weather, dark nights and noise from outside the home that isn’t just birds or wind. Back to a world that is more closely wrapped around us, where streets and houses exist in constricted spaces unlike here where the view from wherever you are is of miles and miles of land, sky, sea, mountains. We expand our lungs to breathe in this pure air and we expand our vision so that we have begun to feel completely at ease with the space around us, aware and in awe of our small presence in this seemingly endless landscape.
Leaving here is inevitable but Iceland won’t be leaving us so easily.