Skagaströnd Art Residency
Updated: Feb 4, 2020
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Thank you to all who have supported my Nes Artists Residency by buying my small paintings; it is much appreciated. I've sold pretty much all of them.
Preparations for my imminent departure are in full swing. Three boxes of art materials and a few provisions have been packaged up and sent off as an advance party; I’m hoping they will arrive by the time I get there.
I'll be flying into Reykjavik airport on Sunday February 2nd and staying at SIM – the Association for Icelandic Artists guesthouse for the night. I’m looking forward to having a bit of time to wander around Reykjavik before retiring for an early night in anticipation of an early start heading north to Skagaströnd on Monday morning.
Skagaströnd is a remote and rural town situated in North West Iceland. Getting to it is no mean feat and requires some map reading to find bus stops and taking several buses: first I have to take an early bus to the Mjódd bus station in Reykjavik in time to catch the 9am Stræto bus from there to Blönduós; then change to the Blönduós shuttle bus to Skagaströnd, and there is only one per day, so if I miss it I will be stuck in Reykjavik. I’m really not good at mornings at the best of times, so this has already been causing me some worry, and I’m also not good at map-reading. And of course who knows what the roads will be like, but I’m sure the Icelandic are very organised at snow–clearing.
The chance to work again in a landscape of vast granite mountains and glaciers, snow and drifting mist, as I did in the high Arctic in 2016, is compelling; I don’t want to be too prescriptive about what might emerge since place, weather, circumstances encountered will all be factors in its development, and this is how it should be - a degree of chance-taking. I want to see what Skagastrond does to me. However I have been doing some thinking:
Thinking about time
Finding ancient air trapped in bubbles within glacial ice when I was in the arctic has made me consider time passing and even time frozen, and how this might be recorded or at least alluded to - maybe as movement or the passage of time passing in making a drawing. I’m going to be walking and drawing simultaneously, responding to movement in land/sea, filming traces and recording sounds of movement; making work that will be sometimes sometimes ephemeral.
I’ve been doing a little pre-residency experimentation with pin-hole cameras made from beer cans, collected from my neighbours (I now know all their drinking habits!).
Over Christmas and New Year I attached three cans to posts low down overlooking Brindister Voe, Shetland, just to see what would happen. Inside each was a piece of b/w photographic paper. Lack of light at this time of year made this a bit challenging, plus I forgot to position the cameras to look south so missed sun trails (not that there was much sun to be had).
Amazingly they survived the strong gale-force winds. The best result was from the image left up for 18 days; had it been left for longer it would have been a lighter image (really they need to be up for at least 3 month), nevertheless I’m pleased that I managed to get any image at all - my first unique solargraph.
It's quite dark and quite mysterious an image – and makes me think about the time passing over the eighteen day it sat there as light seeped slowly into the can to form an image on the paper. Most photographs are now taken at a fraction of a second, while these pinhole images can take up to six months to form. My plan is to set up ten pin-hole cameras around Skagaströnd (pointing southwards) as soon as I arrive and leave them up until I leave.
Knowing the history of a place has always been important to my understanding a landscape so I may imbed in my work references to the material culture that is part of Skagaströnd’s history and narratives - I like the idea of drawing at Spánskanöf, a place nearby where Spanish pirates invaded. Skagaströnd being an old fishing port relates to my on-going interest in 18/19thC fishing communities and I’m going to look for evidence/traces of this in the landscape.
There's marine biology research laboratory in the town and I am hoping it will be possible to visit them and talk about their research. I'm also hoping that a fisherman(woman?) might be persuaded to take me out with them on one of their fishing trips. I’ve been reading a wonderful book my son Tom gave me called Seawomen of Iceland by Margaret Willson tracing the surprising number of women who have made their living from fishing and working at sea, from 18th century Thuridur Einarsdóttir who was one of Iceland greatest sea captains, to those like Inga Fanney, currently an officer on a container ship involved in the high-tech fisheries of today.
I’m going to be using this Blog to document my progress: map areas/sites visited and worked, events, discoveries, thoughts and musings. Watch this space and please leave comments (I'm not sure you can leave comments as I haven't used this Blog format before).
Sunday February 2nd
Flown into Iceland and am in downtown Rykjavik for the rest of the day. Met up with another two artists - Alex and Sarah - coming to the residency, so after a coffee there was a bit of wandering around downtown before heading back to my hostel for an early night; so here are few photos to give you a flavour:
The cathedral - shaped to look like hands at prayer, I'm told
Across the harbour