At Hand

Hendi næst, samsýning í Ásmundarsafni

At Hand



In this exhibition, works by Ásmundur Sveinsson (1893-1982) meet works by a selected group of contemporary artists that are not limited to, but come into contact with, and apply various craft-informed traditions, handwork practices, traditional skills and techniques.

Resonating with the growing acknowledgement of handwork and craft in contemporary art practices, the exhibition celebrates Ásmundur‘s movement through materials, technical boundaries and use of his own hands in making. This renewed engagement can be viewed in response to the long period of conceptual art, research art and other subjective focuses in contemporary art. It may also be a reaction to our contemporary digital reality, where many of the areas of human life have moved towards platforms that are anything but fixed in hand.

Handwork has commonly been associated with the purpose of utility: tools, for wearing, to eat or drink from. This historical consideration that handwork is isolated from what takes place in contemporary art, is less and less a definitive reference point of value, and the boundaries between contemporary art and traditional craft practices are increasingly fluid. Themes related to the home, to women‘s work and gendered skill have expanded with contemporary artists who, without hesitation, weave, carve and shape hand practices into their art.

Arna Óttarsdóttir
Árni Jónsson and Sigurrós G. Björnsdóttir

Ásmundur Sveinsson was born and raised at Kolsstaðir, on a farm in the Dalasysla district, in West Iceland, where his youth was informed by the ways and customs of rural life. This environment and upbringing are said to have permanently inform the way he perceived forms and approached his creative work. He was a handy and clever draftsman, and with schooling and experience he developed skills and resourcefulness that he used in the creation of his works. It is amazing to look at what he achieved, shaping sculptures in clay, plaster, concrete and wood, expanding works of art from small sketches to the size of outdoor sculptures, making complex works from found materials, as well as building his own living and working premises. In many things you can see genius and mastery of craftsmanship, but at the same time all kinds of original solutions.

The contemporary artists included in this exhibition look to what is at hand to make works, whether material, method, tool or technique, each in their own way. The works presented by here are grounded in a sense of knowledge about the material and material possibility, sometimes its history, and more certainly so, its potential in contemporary art today.

From the opening


Artist Talk, 2 June

Anna Júlía Friðbjörnsdóttir and Arna Óttarsdóttir
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Artist Talk, 18 August

Sindri Leifsson and Ragnheiður Gestsdóttir
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