Eternal Recur­rence – Kjarval and contemporary artists

Eggert Pétursson: Untitled, 2019-20

Eternal Recurrence – Kjarval and contemporary artists



In this extensive exhibition, the works of Jóhannes S. Kjarval (1885-1972) create a thread which connects different periods in time. His art is displayed along with the works of artists who have been prominent on the Icelandic art scene in recent years.

Shortly after Kjarval’s death, art historian Björn Th. Björnsson (1922-2007) wrote an article where he discusses Kjarval’s contribution to Icelandic art history and says that his work is “never bound to one particular time, but always contains renascent memories.” This shows the great respect which Icelanders have had for Kjarval’s art, but also the fact that at any given time, the viewers bring their own experience and attitude to the viewing. Kjarval’s influence is unquestionable, and in the exhibition, the spotlight is on his influence on Icelandic artists. This can manifest in many different ways; be obvious and decisive or appear in a more ambiguous way and without intent. 

Kjarval’s most common and beloved subject was Icelandic nature and landscape, but he also painted many portraits and fantasy images where creatures and figures emerge, and various nature phenomena are personified. The artworks on display here are created in diverse media, expressing different approaches to these subjects. 

Kjarval plays a large role in the history of Icelandic art and culture, and he has been a role model and inspiration for generations of artists.

His persona and life’s work surrounds us, for good reason. Kjarval’s work is preserved and examined at Reykjavík Art Museum – Kjarvalsstaðir. Selected pieces are always on display and diverse exhibitions show his career in a wide context, often with works from the museum collection or with special exhibitions that focus on particular aspects of his creative process. This exhibition places Kjarval’s work in a dialogue with the works of younger contemporary artists. Thus, the exhibition invites us to become better acquainted with one of the greatest Icelandic artists, but also the works of prominent contemporary artists who have made their mark on the Icelandic and international art scene. 

We experience a break in the visual field in Ólafur Elíasson’s work. For the first time in Iceland, a series of paintings which Ragnar Kjartansson painted in Eldhraun – inspired by a Kjarval painting in the artists possession – is on display. The video installation Lava&Moss by Steina is one of the more comprehensive works in the exhibition, and there are new paintings by Eggert Pétursson. Among other artists who take part in this exhibition are Guðrún Einarsdóttir, Hrafnkell Sigurðsson, Kristján Guðmundsson, Ragna Róbertsdóttir and Sigurður Guðjónsson..

Images of exhibition

Images from opening