Almost four years ago, Almar Atlason, a first-year art student at the Iceland Arts Academy, had a final project. Naturally, he decided to spend a week living naked in a glass box and livestream it online. In a matter of days, Almar was one of the most famous and controversial artists in the country. Everyone in Iceland knew who he was—and had seen him naked.
Now, he’s here with a peculiar new project—a landscape painting exhibition at Gallery Port called ‘Thirst & Promises.’ While a series of landscapes seems rather conventional for the eccentric artist, if you know Almar, you’ll know it’s anything but.
No mountains here
“When you’re in my line of work, you can’t really complain about attention,” Almar says, reminiscing on his naked-man-in-a-box days. He’s sitting in his cluttered studio, surrounded by assorted knick-knacks. “It was weird, but it was a little bit weirder a few years later when I turned out to be a 23 year-old divorced alcoholic has-been,” he laughs. “Now, I’ve become a stale artist. I am having a show with landscape paintings and I play in a Bubbi Morthens cover band. I don’t think you can get any more stale than this, but I like it.”
Almar calls them landscapes, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one depicting an idyllic countryside. “There’s not a lot of mountains in them,” he says. “I feel like everyone in Reykjavík is trying to identify Reykjavík now, saying ‘Oh I miss when McDonalds was on Laugavegur. The old signs and the old businesses. These new businesses are not as nice.’ But it seems everyone is just missing something they used to hate. Searching for an identity of what it is being in Reykjavík because they feel like they are losing something even though they never really cared about it.”
It was this spark that drew Almar from performance to painting for this project. “Painting is like memorabilia. It’s a documentation of a performance,” he explains. “You look at the brushstrokes and what the artist was looking at and seeing how he moved, the tools he used. It seemed good to use this to tackle the loss you used to hate. This turned into ‘Thirst & Promises.’”
The fisherman & the wives
These two words are, to Almar, the unifying factors tying together Icelandic society. “This promise, without hope, that things will get better and this endless thirst,” he explains. “Like the old fishermen going out on the ocean every single fucking day risking their lives just to sleep way too little and do it again the day after. Or the wives or single mothers in these little farms being cold 363 days a year with a 13th child in the belly going way too late to sleep and waking up way too early just to be able to repeat.” He pauses. “This thirst interests me and I think painting is a nice way to play with that.”
Info: Almar Atlason’s exhibit ‘Thirst & Promises’ will be at Gallery Port until October 3rd.
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