Hreinn Fridfinnsson

Ars Fennica 2000

Hreinn Fridfinnssons (born 1943, lives and works in Amsterdam) art can be characterized as conceptual even though his conceptualism is more in visual poetics than in philosophical abstractions. Hreinn Fridfinnsson was one of the founders of the SÚM group in Reykjavik in 1965, which is considered the avant-garde in Iceland from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies. The influence of the SÚM generation on the birth of the avantgarde in Icelandic art in the 1960s was decisive.

The turning point in Fridfinnsson’s life and art was his move, in 1971, to Holland, where he has lived for most of the time since and where he achieved international success and recognition for his poetic and philosophical studies of the visual enigmas of everyday life. His inspiration usually comes from the Icelandic nature, folklore and folk beliefs, from dreams, short poetical texts and literature. All trough his career Fridfinnsson has returned to documenting Icelandic landscapes either in black-and-white or in colour, as in the sunset landscape of ‘Elsewhere’ (1998-2000).

Jean-Christophe Ammann:

Hreinn Fridfinnsson is a poet. He “speaks” to us about the light, the wind, the landscape, about the rocks and crystals, about the gravity and about sentiment. In 1972 he created gates for the South Wind at a lonely spot on the southern coast of Iceland. He constructed them in such a manner that the South Wind could open the leaves of the gates. On one rainy day, when he had just finished constructing the gates and was taking a photograph of them, the wind blew from the north; the leaves remained closed and the artist never again returned to that place.

This is a story which has the same power as a “child’s story”; a power that allows the undisguised idea and action to flow into a picture.

A year later the wind from the sea blows so strongly in his face that his eyes become filled with tears, but despite this, he still keeps his eyes fixed on the stormy sea. The picture that catches this event is composed of a simply framed sheet of paper with the words “I have looked to the sea through my tears” in an unobtrusive line. Also this work possesses in its simplicity the generative power of the remembrance of ourselves as we gradually discovered the world step by step for ourselves. He “paints” (1992) on a deep blue background of light a “song” with the help of a voice-amplifying oscillograph and the forms associate longing, melancholy – songs of a kind we perhaps no longer know. Last year he put a 30-cm high prism on a tripod and caught the light of the rainbow with the hands, just as we in our childhood desired to walk beneath the rainbow bridge.

The works of Hreinn Fridfinnsson captivate by their conceptual sharpness. Thanks to this, he is able to capture the strongest emotions by the simplest means.