Iceland Residency

This blog about my ten week Listhus residency in Ólafsfjörður, northwest Iceland.  14 artists from an international callout have come to Listhus to make work responding to deepest darkest winter.  

Our work  becomes the Skammdegi Festival at the end of the residency, installed across three towns in the region: Akureyri, Ólafsfjörður and Siglufjörður.

It’s about my experience of the Listhus residency, the work I make, my research and reflection, and includes photos of this magnificent location, the work, and other incidental treats!

Listhus Residency - Ólafsfjörður, Iceland

Getting here

The long-haul flight from Melbourne to Europe is a killer, so I like to spend a few days in London, recovering from the flight and the busy time that always seems to precede departure.  It's also a great excuse to revisit memories of the pretty extraordinary time I had living in London from 1978 to 1982.  And I do love London.  Every time!  This time was remarkably social, and art filled.

London greeted me with sunshine on the first day, and farewelled me with more sun on my last day.  I felt warmly welcomed, and familiar - marvelling, again, over the architecture and specialist shops and services. 

While living in London I was struck by a sense of belonging, an ease and understanding of the English and life in England. At the time I attributed this to having been there before, without thinking too deeply about it. Now though I know it to be the origins of my current research which hinges around the idea that we hold the memories of all our ancestors in our DNA, in our actual physicality, and seek to place myself in locations where my ancestors may have lived, in order to trigger ancestral memory. Last year while I was in Ireland I discovered that this is phenomenology; a recognised and respected philosophical method that allows the researcher to delve into the lived experience of perceptions, perspectives, understandings, and feelings - usually of other people, however I am investigating my own experiences, and expressing my findings through my arts practice.

And the art in London …

Jo Ristovski, an artist I worked with last year, is now living in London so we went to the Tate Britain. We basked in Barbara Hepworth whose work always blows me over. Knowing that she was a tiny woman who had five children, including triplets, I find the scale of her balanced forms with perfectly smooth surfaces in marble, wood and bronze, astounding. I’ve been to Tate St Ives and the Hepworth Museum a couple of times, spent hours absorbing her work, her studio that looks as if she’s just gone for a cuppa, breathing that salty air and the wild views of the Cornwall coast, and the sight of her work takes me straight there again.

And Henry Moore, whose work is at once timeless and surprisingly contemporary, draws me in like a moth to a flame. In the 1940’s he was perceived as the voice of British sculpture, and his monumental semi-abstracted works have been installed internationally. Moore and Hepworth met as students and exchanged letters and drawings for most of their lives. Hepworth was the first to sculpt the pierced figures that are characteristic both artists. I was delighted to see that Moore used a technique for drawing that I use; drawing first with white resist on white paper, putting a pale sepia wash on that, then developing areas with pen and ink.

And this extraordinary painting, Corrida, from Anthony Wishaw, painted in 1955, contemporary yet timeless. I particularly love the expressions on the humans and on the horse, the colour palette with just one central area of colour, the movement and drama.

Wishaw Corrida.jpg

Then Blain Southern, just off Regent Street, with Christoffa Madden, who brilliantly suggested this exhibition. Me, Somewhere Else by Chiharu Shiota who nimbly explores the psychic entanglements of loss and remembrance, dreams and reality, past and present with her intricate fibre installations and sculptures. Being in her exhibition is like being in a temple, being in the presence of a force beyond human.

And showing downstairs, indicated by simple wall text: schlagen und bleiben by Jonas Burgert. So no big fan fare, just an astonishing collection that also created an atmosphere of temple-like reverence for artistic skill that incorporates an extraordinary intuitive ability. Almost life-sized pencil drawings. His close observation of human emotion gives his subjects a potent charge, each alluding to a particular individual enigma.  His deftness with a pencil and ability to capture expression is very inspiring for the drawing I plan for the residency.  

Annie Edney