The long and winding road of Hverfisgata’s cultural reformation got another boost recently with the opening of the studio and exhibition space Black Window. A project of local artists Sylvía Dögg Halldórsdóttir and Agnes Marinósdóttir, Black Window is their attempt to create a cultural space that can be used by apprising artists as a blank canvas for their projects. We went along to have a chat with Sylvía about it all…
WHO ARE YOU GUYS? HOW DID YOU CONNECT?
I come from Reyðarfjörður in the east of Iceland, but moved years ago to Reykjavík. I then went to study art at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, Holland where I lived for several years. From there I lived in the UK for a while before coming back to Iceland last year. Agnes is self-taught and has been doing art for years, but she trained in product design and has a company called Aggystar that makes customised purses and computer bags.
We met years ago, when we were both studying at FB [an Icelandic ‘menntaskóli’]. I’d say we’re kindred spirits. We were apart for years when I was abroad, but every time we met up, it was like we’d only parted yesterday.
HOW DID THE IDEA FOR BLACK WINDOW CAME ABOUT?
I had a studio a couple of blocks from here, but I was getting evicted so was looking for another place. After a few chance meetings, I ended up talking to the owners of this building and they showed me around. At first it looked rather horrible. There was somebody living here at the time and it was quite broken down. But it was perfect as a studio space. However it was too big for me alone, so I called up Agnes, who was also looking for a place to work. It was a great location for a studio. Then the idea for the exhibition space came afterwards.
WELL IT IS RATHER STRIKING…
Thanks. We wanted to have a neutral name because we wanted to create a space that could be used by artists for shows, concerts, or even as a pop up shop, whatever idea they choose. We wanted it to be whatever the artist envisaged each time. So when we thought of the name, we wanted it to be rather plan and not too specific.
Also sometimes as great as it is being in the presence of art, sometime when you walk into some galleries, you feel that something is off. Yes, the work is there but the feel of the place can make people feel uncomfortable, so we’re trying to make the whole ambience of the place more comfortable. Music is playing, people can come in, hang out…
YOU ALSO PLAN ON MAKING IT A 24-HOUR EXHIBITION SPACE. WHERE DID THAT IDEA COME FROM?
There is a bar in Rotterdam called the Aanschouw, and they have these large display windows outside that they would use to display art monthly from artists who create it specifically for that space, so the pieces were on display 24/7. And that’s where we got the idea.
HOW WILL IT ALL WORK? REYKJAVÍK DOESN´T REALLY HAVE A 24-HOUR CULTURE…
True, but it would be nice though [laughs]! Well the space and workshop will be open through the day at varying times, but the prominent works will be on display through the window, so they can be viewed at any time, day or night. Depending on the demand, they’ll likely be on display for a few weeks to a month.
WHAT TYPE OF ARTISTS OR ART DO YOU THINK WOULD BE ATTRACTED TO BLACK WINDOW?
I think that in the art world it’s all about marketing and I’m not against it, but I’m good at playing that game. We’re more of a DIY thing, so we don’t want to attract a specific style or type of work, but anyone with a creative idea that they want to show or share is welcome.
I would say that we want to be open to ideas. There are a lot of artists who’ve been painting and creating for a long time but they never went to art school, so they feel they don’t have the access or contacts to that part of the artistic community to get their work exhibited. So we wanted to make it easy for aspiring artists to contact us.
NOW IF I HAD A PIECE, OR AN ARTISTIC IDEA, HOW WOULD I GO ABOUT GETTING A SHOW?
Our details are both on the entrance and online. And you can feel free to contact us with your ideas. Since we’ve opened, people have already been calling and sending us photos of their work they want to display.