From Iceland — Going Into Withdrawal: Interview with Halldór Ragnarsson

Going Into Withdrawal: Interview with Halldór Ragnarsson

Published October 28, 2012

Going Into Withdrawal: Interview with Halldór Ragnarsson

The Seabear and Mr. Silla band-member new art exhibition opens as a fun Airwaves party event

Among the many great things about Iceland Airwaves is the fact that, along with all the great music, there is also a mass explosion of cultural happenings. You have store openings, road trips and of course, art exhibits! Naturally, in a place this size, music and visual art often overlap. Halldór Ragnarsson is a member of Mr. Silla, Seabear and formerly of kimono. When not undertaking guitar or bass duties onstage, the past decade has seen him as a prolific artist, both solo and as a collaborator. He studied art and philosophy at the University of Iceland, Der Kunste in Berlin, and is currently working on his Master’s degree from the Iceland Academy Of The Arts. His newest exhibit, ‘Fráhvörf/Withdrawls,’ will open on Friday, November 2 at Gallerý Þoka and we got in touch to get the scoop.


What is your new exhibit comprised of? Is there a specific motivation, goal, or theme to the work you’ll be presenting?

I don’t really want to say too much about the concept because I think people should have fresh and open mind before attending an art show. But what I can say is that I have been looking at the word withdrawals a lot lately and that word is the main core and starting point for the show. I know withdrawals is kind of “banal” concept but at the same time very difficult to tackle and I kind of like that. In the end though, it is just me looking with my own eyes at the word and trying to take something from the concept to be looked at in a different way. The show will be built around three main themes from the word: hair loss, childhood in general and Icelandic women.

How long have you been working on this collection? Was there a catalyst to the beginning?

The physical work for the show started around March or so. It will be an installation show built around my paintings and drawings that I have gathered to try to hold this theme together somehow. I have been throwing a lot out, but at the same time lot of new things come in instead. Also, there will be a wall installation that I will be doing with 20 kids from ages six to nine. I like that part very much; to have that “happening” not completely under control like, for example, my paintings, because kids can be wild. Of course I mean wild in the best meaning of the word. That is exactly why they are doing the childhood part of the show with me, because if I would be doing it by myself, I would just in the end be faking it.

You’re displaying at the still relatively new gallery Þoka. How is this space beneficial to the exhibit? Is spatial environment important to you for how you display your works?

My solo shows are always thought of in the beginning of the process as an installation, so I work a lot with the space beforehand. I do wall drawings, or write and draw something on the walls, so each space doesn’t look boring for me. All the works that will be displayed at Þoka are made for that gallery space, exactly like the wall installation are made for that space. Þoka is kind of new gallery and I am really glad that it exists because I think there have been too few interesting galleries around in Iceland for a while. Of course, maybe it’s strange that it’s in the basement of a store that you have to walk through to get into the gallery, but the space is nice and there is a lot of potential to work within it. I have seen three shows there and all of them have been great. Hopefully the gallery will be around for long.

Your exhibit launches during Airwaves. Was this timing intentional or coincidental? Does the exhibit itself tie into the festival’s atmosphere of debauch and irreverence?

I was supposed to exhibit there in December but Aldís [Snorradóttir, curator of Gallerý Þoka] asked me if I could have it during Iceland Airwaves instead. And I said yes. Why not; I think it will be fun. The exhibition will run until the 6th of December so there is enough time for people to see the show in a solid state of mind. I decided to have the opening a little bit more “partied” because of the festival, if I may say so. There will be free beer and a DJ, along with festivalgoers, “my” art-kids, musicians, friends and family. Everyone is welcome, I think it will be a funny atmosphere to see everybody cramped together in the small gallery before they, drunk or not, head into the party of Friday night.

Let’s talk Airwaves itself. Will you be playing? What are you planning on seeing?

I will be playing two shows with my band Mr. Silla (read a nice interview with the Mr. Silla here). We all look really forward to it because we haven’t played live at all since last summer. One will be an off-venue gig at KEX Hostel on Wednesday for the great people at KEXP radio. The other one will be at Harpa Kaldalón on Saturday evening at 00:20. As for myself and my own festival “experience,” I will be quite busy the week before putting up the exhibition, but after the opening on Friday I will to go out with friends and celebrate a little. I haven’t really checked out the festival schedule enough but I know SWANS (check out our interview HERE) and Shearwater are playing and I want to see them if I can. Other than that, I’m open to anything, but I will probably end up strolling around with other music lovers, drink beer and be happy with friends.


‘Fráhvörf/Withdrawls’ by Halldór Ragnarsson ( opens on Friday, November 2 at 17:00 at Gallerý Þoka, Laugavegur 25. It runs until December 6. Check HERE for more details.

 Mr. Silla plays on Saturday, November 3 at 00:20 at Harpa Kaldalón.

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