Morgunbladid 22 september 1999

The animals at home, the animal within.

Visual art - Gallery Hlemmur.is, Ůverholt 5.- Mixed media and video installations.
Valger­ur Gu­laugsdˇttir and ١ra ١risdˇttir.

It is not a daily occurrence, that a new, full-blown art gallery opens. Not meaning a shop or coffee-house, that exhibit art as a side project, without having to consider the motivations that need to be the basis of such a venture. To be sure, a few efforts to mix Art exhibitions with general trade and retail have been successful, without loosing sight of the special meaning behind the side project, but when excluding the fashion store SŠvar Karl and the coffe-house Mokka, the result of this fusion has been incredibly meagre.

And of course we need art galleries; of good quality, ambitious and if possible professional, that choose their exhibitors with care and support their people with ardour. It is perhaps a sign of how superficial our love of the arts really is, that there should be but one professional art  gallery in the entire country that cultivates their artists and fights for them, both domestically and abroad. 

If these matters were to be considered in a good shape, a dozen companies like IngˇlfsstrŠti 8 would have to exist, and not only in Reykjavik. It can truly be said that it would do no harm to downsize the current number of artists by halve, and convert that half into art-lovers to support those that have any real business in the fray itself. What would be the destiny of spectator sports if everyone would start to compete and no-one would be left to fill the bleachers?

In this restrained situation, a beautiful gallery, as Gallery Hlemmur is,  is truly a windfall. It' s location in Ůverholt in the upper parts of  Hlemmur, is sure to elevate the square, that many find the most uninviting one in the whole country. Perhaps taking the spotlight away from the unfortunate souls that wander between the nearby welfare office and the local slum pub, shifting the attention a tad upwards, where the sun shines more frequently than in the lower parts of Laugavegur.

But let's look closer at what goes on in Gallery Hlemmur. There is an exhibition by Valger­ur Gu­laugsdˇttir and ١ra ١risdˇttir, two young women that have not been very visible so far. What makes their exhibition so successful as a joint exhibit, is the connection they make between their screens and videos. 

Hardware is however not the sole creator of correlation, but content as well, the software, which the two artists harmonise in a superbly personal  and intriguing manner. While ١ra focuses on the wildlife within culture, one could say the effect culture has on mice, Valger­ur turns to her inner  animal in relation to ominous symbols of Psychoanalysis.

They both prepare their arrangements with much care so as to be considered admirable. ١ra uses a dollhouse on many floors to provide her mice with a variable and complex apartment building. Therein they keep themselves quite  content and move between floors like heroes from a Victorian adventure. And naturally both furniture and household items fit their size perfectly. Thus  ١ra's mice sleep in beds under sheets. The only divergence from the fairytale is that they are neither clad in night-gowns nor with night-caps, but in the same way as the climbing mice in The animals from Hakkebakke forest these lively inhabitants of the dollhouse are a perfect personifications of modern urban society. They even pose for photographs, as can be seen on an excellent photocopy on the wall. 

In the next hall Valger­ur's giant white painted rocking-horse towers by a jousting lance along the entire wall. This symbol of childhood, which the french painter Gauguin pronounced that one had to get close to by going behind the horses on Parathion's temple, is at the same time a symbol of a five year old child's fear of castration on account of it's sexuality, as  it appears in Freud' s well known theory of Psychoanalysis in the end of the 20th centuries first decade. In the video Valger­ur bounces herself on the horse like she had returned to her original instincts. She completes her description of her animalistic inner self, by the picture of her and the albino rabbit she has smeared in red lipstick with her wild kisses.

In this way, the manifold threads that appear in Valger­ur's and ١ra's artwork, can be endlessly unravelled. As well as congratulating them with  the exhibition and the gallery, readers are strongly encouraged to pass by at Ůverholt 5 by Hlemmur square, before this excellent exhibition comes to an end.