Exhibitions Opening: Can´t Draw a Harebell and Floral Fantasy

 Sýningaopnun: Blómsturheimar og Get ekki teiknað bláklukku

Next Saturday, 25 May at 16h00 sees the opening of two exhibitions with the works of artists Jóhannes S. Kjarval (1885-1972) and Sölvi Helgason (1820-1895) in Reykjavík Art Museum at Kjarvalsstaðir. Curators are artists Eggert Pétursson and Harpa Björnsdóttir.

The artist Eggert Pétursson has assembled an exhibition of the floral works of Jóhannes S. Kjarval. Upon taking on this project for Reykjavík Art Museum, Eggert decided to examine the floral factor in Kjarval’s work and approach it from an artistic viewpoint. According to Eggert, Kjarval’s flower works are more extensive than his own, Kjarval traverses all over. He does not limit himself to botany but paints and sketches flowers around him, be it ornamental plants, potted plants or wildflowers, and last but not least he paints the flora of the mind. Eggert resolved to categorise the works by their elements and figurative connection and display them as he would his own work. His selection is intended to create a coherent exhibition rather than as a historical overview of Kjarval’s floral works.

The artworks are divided into three main groups in the three exhibition halls.
The centre hall contains floral landscape and images from Icelandic wild flora. This includes works where Kjarval first grapples with wildflowers, mainly heather. In his sketches, common plant species are often recognisable, and these kind of sketches can be viewed in the display cases. Landscape and flowers are intertwined in Kjarval’s works and in his last years he paints landscapes of the mind, a grey world, illuminated by flowers.
The north hall contains what may be called festive flowers, i.e. cut flowers, potted plants and flower baskets, artwork which Kjarval created as gifts, both from himself and others. Lastly, the south hall is where we find his floral fantasies, where faces and creatures are interlaced with flowers in paintings and sketches.

Sölvi Helgason or Sólon Íslandus as he also called himself, is indisputably Iceland’s most fascinating folk artist; a charismatic outsider both in his life and in his art. He was a rover, a scholar and an artist, but also a capricious eccentric who disobeyed the law of men and was hence punished with imprisonment.

Paper and pigment were rare commodities and hard to obtain in Sölvi’s times. His resourcefulness in acquiring necessary materials and paint his images under inadequate conditions, as well as receiving little understanding from his contemporaries, is indeed admirable.

Rich and colorful flower compositions characterize Sölvi’s works, and he repeatedly used the same floral patterns, either as the main subject of the image, or as background for portraits.

Sölvi was also a vigorous writer of scholarly texts, as well as his own poetry and reflections, and the back of Sölvi’s pictures is often covered in minuscule writings to the very margin. The spontaneous and persistent passionate creativity of this destitute wanderer is truly laudable, and the artistic value and quality of his work indisputable.

It is worth noting that the exhibition Floral Fantasy will have on display 16 previously unknown works by Sölvi Helgason, that have until now been preserved in Denmark. This significant cultural heritage is a generous benefaction to the Icelandic people from Ingrid Nielsen.