Physical recollections
Text by Geir Svansson 2003
Back to works
Text by Gunnar Harðarsson 1998
Back to works

Although the Icelandic word for a sculpture - höggmynd- is too limited to adequately describe the art of shaping three dimensional materials into significant structures, it does encapsulate the traditional attitude to sculpture, e.g. that it is primarily an image hewn out of stone, or moulded in clay and subsequently cast in bronce. This is the kind of skulpture represented by the city monuments, the "statues that no one botheres to look at", to quote a well known Icelandic pop song. However, for most of the 20th century, a number of artists have created their works on the premise that if art is to maintain its creative spark, it must break off the real or imaginary shackles of tradition and constantly renew itself through experimentation. In general, this applies to all the visual arts, and therefore also to the art of sculpture. It
has transformed itself both through its relationship with the exhibition space and the viewer. Contemporary art often uses a novel formal language, unusual materials and peculiar dimensions, and harnesses both space and the attention of the viewer in hitherto unexpected ways.
The artistic currents that reached Iceland onwards the end of he seventies and at the beginning of the Eighties mostly emphasized the subjective or conceptual content of art, as well as its independence from traditional attitudes to materials and space. The choice of materials was dictated by the idea, instead of being its prerequisite. One of the artists subscribing to this artistic credo is Thóra Sigurdardóttir. Thóra is active both as painter and sculptor. Her paintings are traditional in the sense that she applies paint to canvas, though with a decidedly explorative attitude to both form and colours. But they are also unorthodox in that she will paint on other types of ground, or device wall paintings in the manner of the installation artist. Though she has essentially progressed from painting to sculpture, she is no stranger to
three-dimensional form. There are many ways of creating the sensation of three dimensions on a two dimensional plane. It can of course be done through traditional perspective, but also through the interplay of colours, where one colour will suggest a greater "depth" than the others. The painter is thus dealing with space no less than the sculptor, while the sculptor will also be working in two dimensions. The relationship between painting and sculpture is thus both closer and more complex than the simple plane/space dichotomy would suggest.
In the past few years Thóra has mostly worked in three dimensions. Her work is mainly charecterised by the kind of interplay between linear, formal and spatial values that we find in some of her paintings, but also by experiments with a wide range of materials, some of which are generally not associated with sculpture. Trough experimentation she
searches for a way of reevaluating the role of sculpture, in particular its relationship with the viewer. She uses her formal language to challenge the conventional view of the geometrical and the organic as diametric opposites. Her forms might be organic in nature, but they are deployed in a geometric manner. Her materials are not intended to make her sculpture suggestive of anything beyond itself, in the way that a traditional bronce sculpture might represent a figure, instead her materials have an inherent value in themselves, in that they refer to the everyday reality which they spring from. They refer to the context of our everyday lives, so familiar to us that we sometimes have a hard time recognising it. In her use of diverse materials, and in her formal language combining geometric and organic traits, Thóra occupies a special place among the sculptors of her generation.
There are two other features that charecterise Thóra´s approach to sculpture. One involves the concept of scale - or rather its opposite, smallness - the other has to do with the idea of order or sequence. Her sculptures frequently consist of a series of of small units, arranged to coalesce into a self-sufficient formal structure, essentially a three- dimensional work of art within an enclosed space, leading to the formation of one large sculpture out of a sequence of smaller units. The sculpture, essentially a three- dimensional art within an enclosed space, thus becomes receptive to the perception of
the viewer. Instead of a statue on a base, occupying a limited space, we are presented with a piece of sculpture of an unusual shape, a large and open-form work, consisting of numerous small closed-form units, yet forming one, coherent work. Thóra´s experiments with materials and scale, an important ingredient of all sculpture, are at the same time
intended to infuse her sculpture with a human frame of reference, make us aware of the forces underlying everyday life.
Thóra´s sculptures are experimental in the sense that they dissect and examine the inner workings and creative possibilities of three dimensional structures, especially their capability to absorb unexpected and unusual forms and materials. As a consequence they might challenge the viewer´s sensibilities and his conventional ideas about
sculpture. But Thóra´s sculptures are also attempts to forge a new relationship between the work of art and its audience, by creating a separate space to enter - in reality as well as mentally.

  © Thora Sigurdardottir