From Iceland — Art In The Shadow Of Climate Change: ‘Norðrið’ Shines Light On A Bleak Future

Art In The Shadow Of Climate Change: ‘Norðrið’ Shines Light On A Bleak Future

Published October 14, 2020

Art In The Shadow Of Climate Change: ‘Norðrið’ Shines Light On A Bleak Future
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Climate change is a world-wide tragedy, the fallout of which will be experienced by everybody in the near future. But, despite the enormity of the situation, many people still choose to believe that climate change won’t tangibly affect them or their everyday lives. That said, for people living in the Nordic countries, the natural changes brought about by mankind’s negligence are appearing rapidly. Sometimes, right on their doorsteps.

Norðrið pieces together a larger picture

‘Norðrið’ (‘North’) is a group exhibition featuring artists from Iceland, Finland and Sweden running until December 20th at Hveragerði’s LÁ Art Gallery. The exhibition shines a light on how the environments of the Nordic countries are adapting to climate change and also explores how artists themselves are reacting to the changes in nature. It’s an illumination on nature’s fragility and how it’s represented in artwork.

“The works in [‘Norðrið’], the texts, the [accompanying] podcast and all of the information we’ve brought together, helps point out some specific detailed little changes in our environments here in the Nordic countries,” exhibition curator Daría Sól Andrews explains. “Maybe you don’t realise that these changes are happening until you’re brought face to face with them then it can be kind of a shock.”

Disappearing before our eyes

Through paint, video, sculpture and photography, Arngunnur Ýr, Erna Skúladóttir, Ingibjörg Friðriksdóttir, Nestori Syrjälä, Pétur Thomsen and Ulrika Sparre magnify tiny, often overlooked aspects of climate change that they witness in their homelands on a daily basis, piecing them together to create one large, foreboding picture of the future of our landscape.

Pétur Thomsen’s work ‘Ingólfsfjall’ exemplifies this concept beautifully through a series of photos documenting the mining of Ingólfsfjall mountain in Iceland. Pétur took one photo a day, from the same spot overlooking the mine, showcasing the changing seasons and the mountain which, due to the industry, slowly disappears before the viewers’ eyes. The piece will be added to daily until the wall is full of photos of the vanishing landscape. “This is a practice that happens all across the world, and mountains are disappearing because of that,” Daría explains. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen it happening face-to-face like you can see here. So when you see this mountain literally disappearing every time you drive by, it’s quite jarring.”

Inevitable evolution

Another theme that runs throughout ‘Norðrið’ is that of the inevitability of changes in nature. Regardless of human intervention, nature will always be changing around us and we should embrace and welcome this evolution—without speeding up the process.

“For people living in the Nordic countries, the natural changes brought about by mankind’s negligence are appearing rapidly. Sometimes, right on their doorsteps. “

A large scale installation by Erna Skúladóttir illustrates this, with a number of castings of the ground in Solheimajökull and Langjökull. “She pours this casting over the earth and in many cases it’s earth that—because the glacier is receding and melting away—is kind of new earth that is just being uncovered,” Daría explains. “But it’s actually quite ancient earth that’s been under this glacier for thousands of years, so this is a direct print of the earth. She also makes paint from the clay and dirt and that’s where this rich, earthy colour comes from. It’s sad, because the reason you’re seeing [this earth] is climate change and the glaciers melting, but uncovering untouched land and the way the landscape has changed is still really interesting.”

A true sense of sadness and helplessness for a situation that is rapidly spiralling out of control runs throughout the works in ‘Norðrið’; visitors to the gallery would be hard pressed to come away from it unmoved. From paintings of barren glaciers against bright landscapes to sculptures depicting a world without resources, ‘Norðrið’ serves as a stark reminder of what our near future is likely to look like if we don’t act now.

Info: Located in the LÁ Art Gallery in Hveragerði, ‘Norðrið’ runs until December 20th, 2020. An accompanying podcast, ‘North’, is on Spotify now.

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