Imagine walking through the Icelandic countryside and stumbling across a small church with pristine walls and a red roof. When you attempt to open the door, you find it locked. Jiggling the handle won’t do so you limit yourself to peeking through its dirty windows. There you see it: you’re at the edge of two worlds, crystallized in two juxtaposed images right before your eyes, as if you were experiencing some sort of mystical vision. But no: it’s as real and tangible as you.
Capturing the moment
It was the volatile nature of these images that immediately caught the eye of young French artist Gini Cormerais, whose camera subsequently captured those oneiric moments on film. A year later, her series ‘Hide Your Fires’ is being showcased through September 15 in Hólmavík in the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft, where she has been working during the summer season since 2015.
“This time my boss, friend and museum director Sigurður Atlason proposed that I put together this exhibition for the summer,” Gini explains. “It’s my first solo exhibition. In France, when I was in school, I worked with other artists, but this is the first time that I’m alone. It’s a big moment for me.”
With a short, blonde crop and delicate features, Gini looks more pixie than human. Her thick French accent, which is part of the charm, stresses all her Cs and Ss in a soft haze of sounds that surrounds you like a cloud. When she speaks of her pictures, she does so with caution and perhaps a touch of shyness, but one can truly appreciate her story only by browsing through her work.
Vivid textures and a haunted loneliness
Most of Gini’s photos flirt with the idea of a sensuous interplay between realities: reflected on the surface of a lake or a window, the surrounding landscape appears in all its hazy details and bright summer colours, while the dark textures below the first layer rise unexpectedly vivid, punctuated by back windows opening onto additional worlds. “I know that it looks like something superficial or maybe unnatural,” Gini says, with the daintiest of chuckles. “But there are no special effects like Photoshop. It’s taken like this, and I like this idea of not knowing if it’s real or not.”
I particularly enjoy her clouds, which seem to extend well beyond the frame, and the haunted loneliness evoked by some of her deepest black and greens. After all, it’s apt that Gini chose a line from ‘Macbeth’ to vocalise her story: “Stars, hide your fires and let no light see my dark and deep desires.”
“I like Shakespeare and last year when I was making this series, when the night came back and I saw the stars it was very special moment in my life, a kind of transition,” Gini tells me softly. Perhaps she regrets going too far, because she immediately apologises: “I don’t like to think too much or to talk about my work because I think my pictures say more than I can say with words. I just want to share my point of view.”
That she does indeed, unlocking a window onto a side of Iceland that we had yet to experience.