From Iceland — Artist Vs. Artist

Artist Vs. Artist

Published November 18, 2009

Artist Vs. Artist

Egill Sæbjörnsson and Davíð Örn Halldórsson are both prominent young artists that have been raising eyebrows all over for a while now. With good reason, too, as their art is, in all honesty, pretty damn good. Lucky for us denizens of Reykjavík, then, that both artists are displaying their works in the area this month. To celebrate the occasion, we got them to do brief QnA sessions with one another.
Davíð asks Egill..

If you had the opportunity to write and direct a full-length feature film, what sort of film would you make?  

I was recently thinking of how fun it would be to make a movie that’s set in Berlin around 1998, when I was in the process of moving there. They had a lot of underground bars and a great music scene that later begat artists like Peaches, Gonzales, Mignon, The Puppetmastaz, Angie Reed, Kobrakillers and even Feist. They would open clubs at the tram conductors’ bathroom facilities on Rosenthaler Platz, and on Monday’s they’d open a bar in one apartment, then it would move to another one on Tuesdays. You had no money, resided in coal heated apartments and if you went out to eat it was for a döner that set you back around 150 krónur. They’ll make that movie eventually.
I’ve also envisioned a sci-fi flick set in Reykjavík and would be around the band The End and their theories on the end of the world. It was to be based on the lives of Dóri and Maggi from the band and their music, they are great musicians.
Dóri had a lot of theories on the end of the world, and he wrote a book about it. He also thought he was Frodo from Lord of the Rings at some point. This would be a true story biopic based on Dóri’s imagination and the awesome singing talents of Maggi. I want Brad Pitt to play Dóri. The world is FILLED with stories. I could write an endless amount of scripts, I think.
I heard you had a bunch of new songs – will you be releasing them in the coming seasons?
No question. I’ll try. It’s so fun. There’s also a bunch of stuff that I’m uploading to It’s so easy to put stuff up there. Soon, you can find a few of the homemade records that I’ve been releasing in fifty copies, some rarities and also my first record, The International Rock ‘n’ Roll Summer of Egill Sæbjörnsson
What is Donald Judd doing in your new exhibition?
In one of the works in the exhibition I’ve put up a “fake show” with red walls and all sorts of items and artefacts. It is meant to look like a typical museum display. Two walls in the hall then start talking about the items on display. They are thus like props on a stage. The Donald Judd sculpture is one of the items they talk about. It also has, for instance, a poster of the Harry Potter film, a doll of “The Internet Kid” and a videocassette of The Matrix film, a framed spider, a quartz spear from the stone age, a cornet, etc.
After all the wandering, is there anything you miss about Reykjavík?
I have to say, I think Reykjavík is an incredibly beautiful city. During the economic boom years, a lot of the houses downtown were worked on and remodelled, now the houses in Þingholt remind me more and more of Kardimommubærinn. For a person that’s raised in Paris, where the average building is seven stories high, and most of the houses were built 120 years ago, it’s like visiting a magic city. I’ve lived abroad for almost fifteen years, eleven of them in Berlin, and have started viewing Reykjavík in a completely different light.
Are you in good spirits?
I think being in good spirits is a fundamental thing. When so much is happening, as is the case now, you are in really good spirits. Not a question.
Egill Sæbjörnsson’s exhibit, Spirit of Place and Narrative, is on display at the Reykjavík Art Museum – Hafnarhús until January 3 2010.
Egill asks Davíð…
What are you showing now in Ásmundarsafn? What is the works’ state of mind?
It’s a co-exhibit where several Icelandic artists display works based on the works of Ásmundur Sveinsson and Ásmundarsafn in general. My work is based on a piece entitled Pýramídísk abstraksjón (“Pyramidic Abstraction”), I painted a single little painting on the wall there.
My painting is called “dos pyrami dos” because there are four pyramids in the installation and I am trying to work with the same train of thought as Ásmundur, mixing the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional. It was a lot of fun getting to work within the context of Ásmundarsafn and the works on display there, it was a little bit like sharing a conversation with Ásmundur.
And your forthcoming show at Hafnarborg?
The show is divided in two. In the first hall, I am working with prints of my paintings, or a specific pattern that appeared in one of my works. The inner hall features little clusters of paintings that are unusually shaped. We’ll see if that works.
In the paintings, I am trying out new things, even though the methods may look familiar to some. The idea is to simplify the works, so that the spectator may clearly discern the first stroke, so the idea is transparent. I am also publishing a book of my works that’s called Ofhlæði/Overload and will be out on the Ok bæ(!)kur imprint.
Do you have a studio for painting? Do you think it’s important to have one?
Yes, I’ve got a really nice studio. It’s downtown and serves me really well. It’s totally imperative for my creation to have a workshop. I’ve got so many materials; paint, wood, my books and music. It’s like a home away from home. Or as I called it when I lived there: STUDIOHOUSEAPPARTMENT.
When will Iceland’s economy start recovering? Why?
It will, if we take up different values and attitudes. It became evident that endless greed did not work out. We have one of the best social welfare systems in the world, so we shouldn’t complain, just keep our calm and we’ll sail through this.
That doesn’t mean that all is forgiven, I want to see some people punished for their actions. And the arrogance of some of the politicians that got us here is embarrassing. This time around, Icelanders should not forget so easily. That’s what seems to plague us, we’re always so quick to fucking forget.
What kind of music do you listen to?
In music, I am a total novelty whore, that is, I like to follow what’s going on and take in new things constantly. So I try and read up on what’s going on and buy a lot of music, I don’t really know how to download. I have a big record collection that is very important to me, I always listen to my music when I work and I am certain that it is a big part of my creative process.
Davíð Örn Halldórsson’s exhibit of paintings and installations, Hvar er klukkan?, opens in Hafnarborg, Hafnarfjörður, on November 7.

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