‘Gegnumtrekkur’—the title of Kristín Morthens’ newest exhibition at Þula—directly translates to ‘the Bernoulli Principle.’ It’s a physics term that describes stack effect, or how differences in pressure affect the flow of substances in an enclosed environment. Basically, it’s an extrapolation of the law of conservation of energy—that total energy must remain constant always.
Kristín Morthens’s whirlwind
But to be blunt, it’s not exactly the type of thing you might immediately interpret from Kristín’s paintings. Her works are a whirlwind of heightened, jewel-toned, chaotic abstractions, teaming with unlimited potential and kinetic energy. They don’t scream balance, but rather push the limits of equilibrium in a fantastical, space-age way that seems completely outside the realm of physical laws. Does the conservation of energy even exist in her works? It’s difficult to say.
“If you open two windows in the same space, the different air pressures of the wind and the air pressure inside will cause one window to get slammed shut,” Kristín explains, walking around the airy exhibition room. “So for this show, I wrote an imaginative text where this happens. I’m in a house and I open two windows and because of the air pressure, I get sucked out of one of those windows and journey into another reality.”
Beautiful but dangerous
This new reality is rife with symbols that indicate the rules of Kristín’s dimension. Some are the same as ours—hierarchy, power, love, and emotional and social contracts. “But all of this is in an alien, timeless space, so, for example, you have this shape here,” she explains, pointing to the top of a work entitled ‘Þyngdarlögmál’ (‘Gravity’ or ‘Weight Law’). “It’s both the sun but it’s also a wheel saw blade. So at the same time it’s something that’s vital, that creates life, but it’s also fatal and dangerous.”
Another shape that constantly reappears in the series resembles a hand curved around into a circle with long jagged fingers. It immediately brings to mind a fibonacci sequence set into the form of a claw—another mathematical law that may or may not exist in Kristín’s universe.
She gestures to a work entitled ’13 Tungl’ (’13 Moons’), pointing to the large prominent claw displayed there. “Here, I’ve painted the nails red so it’s exaggerated. It’s taken from this reality of long, red, femme nails—something that is beautiful and seductive, but also dangerous. Like ‘don’t fuck with her,’” she says. Walking around, she motions towards other works like ‘Sog’ (‘Suck’) and ‘Brennisteinn’ (‘Sulfur’), which have the same motif—albeit set in different situations.
‘Brennisteinn’, in fact, has two of these claws, both reaching towards each other but never quite making it—an endless mirrored loop of almost-touching.
“It creates this tension,” Krístin notes as she regards her painting. “There’s some border between affection and a push-and-pull, which maybe you could call rivalry. It’s at the border of communication, which here, like the other symbols, is both loving and dangerous.”
And perhaps it’s here that the previously elusive Bernoulli Principle is seen in all its glory. For in ‘Brennisteinn,’ the kinetic energy of the flexing hands perfectly counters the potential energy of their almost-touching—the first law of thermodynamics triumphantly presented against a background of Prussian blue.
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