The surreal circumstances spawned by the global spread of the novel coronavirus offer an unrivalled artistic stimulus, something Viktor Weisshappel Vilhjálmsson and Þórður Hans Baldursson, the owners of online print store, Postprent, were quick to realise. In a bid to document the COVID-19 pandemic and provide some positivity, Postprent has been showcasing artworks created by socially-distancing, quarantined or isolating Icelanders in its new collection, Sóttqueen.
Sóttqueen was inspired by Viktor and Þórður’s desire to find a little light amidst so much darkness: “We’d been seeing a lot of bad news and we wanted to do something positive,” explains Viktor. With this goal in mind, Postprent issued an open call on social media for pieces of art inspired by the coronavirus pandemic. Works are exhibited in their digital gallery on Instagram and prints are sold through their online store.
An Unexpected Triumph
Less than one month later, Postprent has received almost 200 pieces of art. “We’re super happy about the huge amount of material we’ve received,” says Viktor, going on to explain that the project’s huge success came as something of a surprise. “We just had this idea and we wanted to throw it into the cosmos and see what came back to us.”The democratic nature of Postprent—they post everything they receive that fits their brief–has given many unestablished Icelandic artists a platform to reach a wider audience. One of the things Viktor has most enjoyed about the project is discovering amazing local artists he’d been unaware of. Some favourites include Margrét Lára Baldursdóttir’s depiction of empty supermarket shelves and Kaja Sigvalda’s photographic compositions.
One of the collection’s most striking through-lines is the humorous approach many of the artists have taken to documenting the pandemic. “Dark humour is a very Icelandic response to difficult issues,” Viktor tells us. The collection is full of witty observations about the strange era we are all living through, take our latest web issue’s cover by Arnar Birgis titled’ ‘Kóróna (my mama don’t like you and she likes everyone)’. Indeed, the very name of the collection, ‘Sóttqueen’, is a pun on the Icelandic word for quarantine.
The project has been warmly received by Icelandic art lovers. Viktor tells us he has been thrilled with the support he and the Sóttqueen artists have received. “I think a lot of people relate to the art” he says, “it just goes to show that we’re all in this together.”
Thanks to international travel restrictions, possible restrictions on mass gatherings and social distancing measures, the coming summer is likely to be quieter than usual, so what better time to get your creative juices flowing? Postprent is still accepting Sóttqueen submissions, so check out their website or Instagram if you’ve been busy creating. As Viktor explains these are perhaps the perfect conditions for creativity to blossom: “We all have much more time on our hands” and the coronavirus is an endlessly versatile muse.
Excitingly, fans of Postprent’s virtual gallery can soon see the works in the actual real world! On May 23rd they will launch an exhibition showcasing the Sóttqueen prints in Ásmundarsalur.
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