Works out of doors and in foyer
The tall figure in a blue suit who welcomes the museum’s guests upon arrival was made by the Huglist group in 2009. Close to the entrance is an enlarged painting by Eggert Magnússon, as well as a stone sculpture on the wall by Haukur Halldórsson, showing the Norse god Þór (Thor) lifting a cat. By the entrance stand whitepainted concrete sculptures by Helgi Valdimarsson.
Sculptures by Ragnar Bjarnason also greet the museum’s guests as they enter, both outdoors and indoors. Ragnar’s works are made from reinforced concrete, which he painted and originally displayed in his garden in Reykjavík.
In the foyer works are presented under the title Sailing the Seas and Waters. Works by 22 artists are on display, depicting ships and boats in diverse materials. In conjunction with this exhibition works are on show by pupils from Valsárskóli, the local elementary school, based on the same theme.
By the veranda is the sculpture Prayer by Hjalti Skagfjörð Jósefsson.
Óskar og Blómey
Their names are always coupled together: Óskar Magnússon (1915–1993) and Blómey Stefánsdóttir (1914–1997) – not surprisingly, as their lives and destinies were so integrally intertwined. For about 30 years they lived in Blesugróf, a shanty town on the edge of Reykjavík, in a house built by Óskar using whatever materials came to hand, and he called it Garðstunga after his boyhood home. But it woke greater attention when they moved the Hellisheiði heath, where they lived in primitive conditions, almost like outlaws, for nearly a decade. There Óskar built a home from used wooden boards and tarpaper along with the traditional Icelandic building materials: turf and rock. Their new home was also named Garðstunga.
When textile artist Hildur Hákonardóttir payed a visit to their home in Blesugróf she noticed they had a loom on which they wove rugs, and she invited Blómey to take part in a evening course she was holding on pictureweaving. Óskar accompanied Blómey to the course, and before long he too was weaving pictures. Óskar especially was captivated by this art form.
He remarked: “Weaving is the art of the working man. There is no corner so dark, no shack so small, that you cannot weave there.”
Anna’s Worlds in the World
Anna Richardsdóttir is known for her powerful performances and happenings in which she often challenges conventional ideas about feminity and gender roles. At the core her works are an expression of catharsis of both body and mind, ad dressing female stereotypes, nudity and eroticism, even hidden anguish.
In the exhibition, works are shown by seven women who are all true influencers in their art. Lára Lilja wraps tree branches with yarn to create enchanting sculptures, and paints profound abstract paintings. Elín Sigríður María draws autobiographical and invented fairytales. Sigrún Huld paints precise depictions of buildings and birds in bright colours. Elín Fanney works with popular culture, and pop music lyrics. Helga Matthildur draws powerfully with felttips and pens. Guðrún Bergsdóttir makes her works with needle and thread, stitch by stitch. Edda Guðmundsdóttir shapes ani mals and stories in clay.
Over the centuries, some art has been overlooked in writing the history of art. Groups and individuals who have often been marginalised in society in various ways. There are so many people of all genders and origins, and people with disabilities, who have made important works of art over the centuries, works that have influenced other artists and trends in the history of art. They are real influencers, who must be recognised, and whose influence in the art of each society must be acknowledged. Safnasafnið – the Folk and Outsider Art Museum – has always sought to eradicate such discrimination-based boundaries and uphold equality.
Celebrating 100 Years
Ragnar Hermannsson was born in 1922 at Bjarg, Flatey island on Skjálfandi bay, where he lived most of his life. He spent his latter days at the Hlíð retirement home in Húsavík until his death in 2009. Safnasafnið celebrates the centenary of Ragnar’s birth by exhibiting two large shipmodels and a fine selection of the carved figures he made in his senior years. Three things in particular grace the characters created by the artist: definite form, strong vivid colours, well made shoes. An unassuming tranquillity imbues his works – an aura of times past, heartfelt sincerity and unpretentiousness.
Wonder with a needle – when thread becomes a tale
Kristín Dýrfjörð shows works in which she uses needle and thread to express her love of nature, showing in freeflowing embroidery her impression of a volcanic eruption as well as the blue ponds of the upland heaths, birds and flowering pastures. Kristín uses her needle to unite colours and form into one entirety, calling to mind memories of summer and gentle tales.
The museum library contains hundreds of books and a vast amount of source material about visual arts, design, architecture, textile and crafts. It also includes docu ments about the Safnasafnið museum, its exhibitions since the outset, the collection, various papers on outsider art and artists, as well as the museum’s own research and documentation.
This year the display in the library consists of works by Rósa Sigrún Jónsdóttir, in which she reflects on how preference of taste changes over time, with modern times seeing little value in porcelain statues that not so long ago were a declaration of good taste in people’s homes. In Rósa Sigrún’s hands these statues become subject to artistic transformation, with a twist on appearance and essence.
In the Store’s inner area, the South Room, is a selection from the museum collection showing works made from shells and conches, most of them made by unknown creators. The works are a shining example of the extraordinary creativity of ordinary people, and show how natural material washed ashore can inspire the image making power of people’s minds.
The museum collaborates annually with schoolchildren from the local Eyjafjörður district. The purpose of this collaboration is to foster from an early age the children’s imagination and interest in art; the museum is also honoured by their participation and takes pleasure in sharing their cheerfulness and creativity. This year the children at the local Álfaborg preschool show their works in the conservatory adjacent to the doll collection, and pupils at Valsárskóli elementary school show their works in the foyer. This time the emphasis was on ships and boats, in keeping with this year’s exhibition Sailing the Seas and Waters.
Gígja Thoroddsen (1957–2021), who made her art under the name Gía, believed that love and art reside within us all. Many of Gígja‘s works clearly reference art history, while others depict her experience of mental health services, and also she often painted wellknown figures. In her own view – and without a trace of arrogance – she maintained that she was the best artist in the world. Her art soon attracted attention among those who appreciate self taught artists; at the Art Without Borders arts festival, she was twice chosen Artist of the Festival. In 2016 she held an exhibition at Safnasafnið, after which she presented a selection of her works to the museum.
Gígja was hardworking, showed her art widely, gave works where she felt they were needed, and left hundreds of works at her death. The title of the exhibition, The Bird has Flown, is drawn from one of her last works, which is on display in the exhibition. Quite symbolic, it depicts a being with a birdcage over the head; the cage door is open and the bird has flown. At Gígja’s death, her sister Ásta Steinunn Thoroddsen presented about 800 of her works to Safnasafnið, together with a generous financial donation. The museum is deeply grateful to Ásta and her family for their generosity, and for their trust.
Hildur Hákonardóttir is nationally renowned for her art and diverse work in visual arts and writing. She does not flinch from ad dressing issues of feminism and human rights in her art, and she has also been interested in the relationship between hu manity and nature.
In her installation at Safnasafnið, If I Were a Birch Tree, Hildur seeks to place herself in the role of the birch, and better under stand its nature. She says: “The birch is a pioneer plant that enters sandy wastes in order to afforest them. The birch is con nected to Venus and protects newborns and maidens, it cleans microplastics from the environment, battles harmful bacteria and produces oxygen. An exhibition gallery is a sacred space dedicated to aesthetics. The birch broom cleans and neutralises the area and sweeps out old ideas and difficult thoughts. I am here neutralising the energy before I install my own creation.“
Land Almanak: Anthology of Scale
Unnar Örn shows his work Land Almanak: Anthology of Scale, which consists of a col lection of photographs from expeditions by scientists in Iceland’s high lands between 1890 and 1930. The objective of these expeditions was to chart the uninhabited regions of Iceland, primarily taking account of the natural resources and qualities of the land, reflecting the ideas of the time about research on the upland wilderness and its potential utilisation.
The scientists, most of whom had connections to geoscience and universities
in Europe, were invariably accompanied by Icelandic guides on their travels in the wilderness. The images in the exhibition do not only depict Iceland itself; there is al ways one person – generally the local guide – present as an indication of the scale of the landscape.
The photographs, which are all from the collection of The National Museum of Denmark, raise questions concerning identity, Peoples experience of dwelling the land, and mans rights over the wilds.
Epilogue Letters (her withdrawal)
Bjarki Bragason’s exhibition, Epilogue Letters (her withdrawal), is a video instal lation that investigates a narrative in the life of an individual whose trajectory is intercepted with then currently unfolding political history.
In 2003, the Icelandic government supported the so called coalition of the willing, or the invasion of Iraq led by the US andits allies. The work Epilogue Letters (her withdrawal) was made in 2009 and 2010; it emerges from the narrative of a woman who served for a time as a member of Ice land‘s NATO mission to Iraq, after the end of the war had been declared. Towards the end of her service with the peacekeeping force, she was the sole member of the Ice landic team left in the country. In her community of peers in Baghdad, where her col leagues mostly belonged to units of large armies of various countries, people often assumed she was a member of an Icelandic army – which does not exist. In her conversations with Bjarki she reflects on her role and the contradictions that can arise from the role of an individual representing a country, and the thin border between fact and fiction, was the sole member of the Icelandic team.