by Eiríkur Thorláksson
One of the distinguishing features of good art is that it leaves something for the viewer to ponder. Things are only implied, not stated, and thus become fountains for the fertile imagination of those who are interested in the possibilities art has to offer.
The photographs of Ívar Brynjólfsson are such fountains. The show that Ívar has put up at Gallery Hornid simply entitled "Pictures from Gardabær" [a suburb of Reykjavik] is a continuation of his earlier studies. Instead of an event, as was the case at his last exhibition, "Pictures from the Presidential Campaign", Ívar has decided to tackle a whole community. As before the medium is black and white photography, but his technical approach is different. These are composite works made up of three to six pictures that together create desolated panorama.
The works are without a title and show schools, lava, grazing fields, walking paths, desolated shipyards or office buildings. The fact that the pictures are totally devoid of any human presence only serves to distance the subject, emphasising the architectural properties of the borough rather than celebrating the inhabitants that live within it.
We are faced with a grim reality. Dilapidated buildings, graffiti and barren strips of lava is matched by a chilling sense of stagnation. This icy image is augmented by the winter conditions evident in the pictures and the harsh tonal contrasts; Ívar relies on almost the opposite ends of the grey scale as is exemplified by the black horses in one of the works and neutral, milky-white sky that characterises most of them.
This desolate view runs understandably against the idea of how we would like to see our own home turf presented sun-drenched and colorful as the tourist guidebooks would have it but it rings just as true. And a similar angle could be applied to most of the towns in Iceland. Wherever.
That Ívar has chosen Gardabær as his subject may be a coincidence, or he may be playing with the image of affluence associated with the borough. Whatever the case may be, we are reminded that everything in this world is transient and the reverse side of affluence is never far away.
(The daily newspaper Morgunbladid, April 27, 1997. Tansl. HS)