As a flicker of light appears at the end of the pandemic tunnel, we sat down with the next generation of Icelandic artists to discuss the future. The conversations were freeform—some focused on the upcoming years, others reflected on realisations from the past months, others still looked with wide-eyes at the future of the scene, which has only grown within the restrictions of the coronavirus.
Presenting, an artistic vision of the future, as told by the future. Today, we talk to Loji Höskuldsson.
“It’s kind of a word game,” Loji Höskuldsson says when asked about the piece he’s currently working on. “So here in Iceland, we have this mayonnaise brand. It’s kind of a funny company, it’s called Gunnars majones (‘Gunnar’s Mayonnaise’), so first I made a huge bucket of mayonnaise, Gunnar’s mayonnaise.”
“But then there’s also—and it’s not related to Gunnar’s mayonnaise—a brand called Gunnars kleinuhringir (‘Gunnar’s Donuts’). Not the same Gunnar,” he continues, a big grin lighting up his face. “So this picture is about me going to a guy called Gunnar’s house for brunch. And so it’s me at Gunnar’s house for Gunnar’s brunch eating Gunnar’s mayonnaise and Gunnar’s donuts.” He raises his eyebrows.
Loji is known for these sorts of works. In his art, he explores the beauty of the mundane, constantly referencing old school “Icelandicana” and heritage brands in inventive ways that stir up those deep-seated memories and emotions of times long gone. Basically, he stitches nostalgia.
“I really like things that take you back as a subject. You see them and you say, ‘Oh! I remember!’” Loji exclaims. “You’re not thinking about them all the time, but when you see them again, it brings you back.”
Even his chosen medium—embroidery—is rife with nostalgia. “I think everybody in Iceland has a grandmother who stitched things or memories of some embroidery at their grandparent’s house. Every person can relate to it,” he says. And based on the reactions he gets to his cosy, heartwarming works—he’s right.
Look to the milk cartons
With someone who spends so much time looking back into the ether, it’s perhaps natural that Loji hasn’t been particularly personally affected by the pandemic. Afterall, nothing can change the past.
“In this time, in this pandemic, when there’s nothing happening really, I’m just trying to explore more,” he shrugs. “I’ve mostly been trying out new things in my artwork—new stitches and motifs.” He pauses, suddenly lost for words. “Wow, maybe I’m the most boring person in the world?”
(Yes, clearly the young artist who just described a fantasy involving two imaginary brand mascots turned into one man eating brunch with him, is the most boring person in the world.)
But bring him back into the past—and the world of Icelandicana—and he’s no longer lost for words. Right now, he explains, his favourite nostalgic objects are Icelandic milk cartons from the 90s.
“In Iceland, we only recently had some new companies making milk. We used to have only one company. They changed their milk carton design every 10 years or so, so if you look at pictures and you see milk cartons, you know what year [it’s from],” he says gleefully. “This design and that design—they bring you back to an era.”
Check out Loji Höskuldsson on Instagram.
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