Art n’ Roll

7.3.2008
Words by Steinunn Jakobsdóttir
Egill Sæbjörnsson is one of Iceland’s leading young artists. For the past nine years, he has been based in German’s creative capital Berlin, lived in Rio de Janeiro and travelled the globe to exhibit his curious and often humorous creations. At Gallery i8 on Klapparstígur, Sæbjörnsson recently opened his first exhibition in Iceland for almost two years.
In his exhibition he deals in an intriguing way with various conceptions of reality and interprets the way art can reflect the way people experience their existence and surroundings. The exhibition features three new video-installations in which sounds, everyday objects and animated videos combine in an unusual way. One displays three coloured glass-bottles, another three rocks he found in Brazil and the third shows various plastic items. These objects are lined up in front of video projectors that project animated images of coloured lines and forms on the objects, which then cast a shadow onto the walls behind and create a new picture. While all the different shapes and colours stimulate the imagination, exotic sounds recorded in Brazil’s forest create a soothing atmosphere inside the gallery.
“I’ve been focusing on works where I project a video onto an object. For me, this makes you consider that when you look at an object you are always projecting the ideas you have about this object onto the object,” he explains and adds that this could represent the way we project our imagination onto reality.
Sæbjörnsson has worked with a range of media but video-installations and animation have been prominent in his previous art works. “I studied art [at the Icelandic College of Arts and Crafts and at the University of Paris, St.Denis] and my background is drawing and painting. What I’m doing today is sort of a continuation of that. I use technology that landscape painters like Ásgrímur Jónsson and Kjarval didn’t have back in the days when they painted pictures of, for example, Mt. Hekla. I’m sure that those painters would be working with video and video-installations to interpret their surroundings if they were young today. That’s a modern way to look at the world, a logical continuation of the painting. I don’t want to be misunderstood, that I’m saying that painting is dead, like some people always have to focus on. This is rather just a step forward.”
A Replica of Reality
Sæbjörnsson goes on to explain how he has always been particularly fascinated with video and animation: “When you look at a painting, of perhaps two people sitting at a table inside a house, talking, first you might see what these two people look like. Then you notice the red wallpaper in the background and a window in the corner. Outside the window you see a clear blue sky and perhaps a hearse driving by. With a painting like this, of course someone is trying to tell a story. You look at this picture and a storyline starts to unfold inside your head, creating a sort of video. I always wanted to make pictures that could move and that’s why I started working with animation. That’s just like a moving painting. What I also find interesting is how the video is a replica of reality. I find it interesting to work with this replica on the one hand and the real items on the other. To have a video-image projected onto reality.”
Music is an integral part of Sæbjörnsson’s art creations. He’s been writing music since he was 14, released his first album, ‘The International Rock ‘n’ Roll Summer of Egill Sæbjörnsson’, in 1998 and the LP ‘Tonk of the Lawn’ two years later. His passion for art and music often merges in his performances and exhibitions. “I’ve had this vision ever since before I started art school, to experiment with art and music and mix the two together. But making music has always been more of a passion than anything else. When I released ‘Tonk of the Lawn’ it was just because I had fun making that kind of music at that time.” The album received well-earned attention and many fans are waiting for the next release. “I’ve been planning to release an album for a long time. I’ve written loads of songs and even recorded them.” So what’s the hold up, I ask. After some contemplation he replies: “I really don’t know”.
Egill Sæbjörnsson’s exhibition is open until March 29. Gallery i8, Klapparstígur 33, www.i8.is.

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