I arrived in the Faroe Islands fairly well-versed in the islands’ musical and literary heritage, but with little grasp of the visual art scene there. In fact, the only encounter with Faroese art that I can recall previously was Tróndur Patursson’s glass bird installation at Reykjavík’s concert hall, Harpa a few years ago.
Upon arrival in the Faroe Islands I met some of those birds again, this time fluttering across windows and hanging from the ceiling throughout the tiny Vagar airport.
Always working with the nature he lives with in the Faroes, Patursson’s glass work appeared again at The Nordic House, this time taking the shape of the mountains. In the photo below, outside the window, Hans Pauli Olsen’s bronze sculpture, “Pilot Whale Killing,” plays with depths and explores that controversial Faroese tradition, the annual pilot whale hunt.
The Nordic House is filled with art works; paintings, sculptures, lithographs and glasswork, by Faroese artists who also include Guðrið Poulseon, Jóhannes Geir and Edward Fuglø.
Fuglø’s work, “Microstate Hiker” was unfortunately on loan when I visited, but I was able to see more of his work at the hotel I was staying at, Hotel Føroyar. “Nation Building” (in the photo at the beginning of this post) was the first to strike me as I saw it hung over the staircase to the hotel’s restaurant. In it, the Faroese flag is created out of food packaging, most of which seem to be imported. The piece seems to comment on ideas of independence and self sufficiency in a nation not wholly independent and (because of the rugged terrain where vegetables do not grow easily) dependent upon imported foods. It’s worth remembering that the practice of pilot whale hunting came to be because it was once a real struggle to find food to eat here.
I was soon seduced by Fuglø’s work, filled with surreal elements and comments on Faroese identity. The below piece, in the hotel’s lounge, is called “Cosmic Event” and superimposes a flying saucer over a vintage wedding scene.
This one, in the reception area. I don’t have the title of as the third panel had been removed when I went to take a last look and photo of it. Again, though, Fuglø is obviously playing with ideas of identity.
When I visit Iceland in the winter, my favourite time to stroll the streets of Reykjavík is in the morning, when, until late morning, the city is concealed beneath the long winter night’s cloak and tourists are few and far between.
I left my hotel after nine, while the streets were lit only by lamp posts and shop windows. I wandered through the town all the way to the old harbour, where I waited for the dark to slowly lift and for the sky to turn that ghostly winter blue I love so much.
When I look back on the summer I spent working in Reykjavík I always feel foolish that I spent so little time outside of the capital. I was busy and consumed by my own little life, but it is ridiculous that I lived in Reykjavík from June to August 2006 without seeing very much of the country.
I attempt to redress this by taking advantage of Icelandair’s free stopover on my once/twice yearly trips home to Scotland from my current home of New York City. Like taking small sips of fresh Icelandic air, I rent a car in Reykjavík and try to gulp down as much as I can with the few days I allow myself before heading back to the real world — and the filthy air and grime of New York City.
My most recent trip, in early May, took me onto Route 1 and to the black sand beach of Vík in the southwest of the country. A late learner and always a nervous driver, I feel strangely calm driving on the Icelandic roads. Once out of the city, as the otherworldly landscape begins to reveal itself, I perhaps find myself a little too relaxed, frequently slamming on the brakes to to a photo of some jagged mountain, shimmering waterfall or cute horse. It’s usually OK, once out of the city I am often along on the road for as far as I can see.
Seeing as my last few posts have been about Iceland (trying to catch up on all my recent travels), here is a cute shot of a cute house in a cute city.
This was taken .. somewhere on the walk back from Cafe Loki near Hallgrimskirkja. It was early January and there were a few straggling Christmas decorations around the city, but I kinda hope this is not a festive display but an everyday display.