Ragnheidur Jónsdóttir
Untitled 1993 - 200x150cm
The Drawing and the Mind’s Mess

by Jón Proppé

If it is true what the poet Dagur Sigurdarson always said, that there are two types of persons, draughtsmen and colourists, then it may be said that colourism must be one of the dominating characteristics of the Icelandic national spirit, because we have had only a few good draughtsmen and the drawing has at all times been largely left out in Icelandic art and debate. Dagur was a colourist himself and a poor draughtsman, but he did, however, greatly admire the draughtsmanship skill of others, his friend Alfred Flóki being a clever draughtsman in character and expression. This epidemical colourism may perhaps be linked to the tradition of narration, although drawings are actually deemed to be better suited for narratives than coloured paintings.

Icelandic sagas are not like the stories of other nations. These are like a woven blanket, pieced together by fine threads, but assembled more as an overall picture and creation of personalities than an assembly of minor details and plot. The drawing is a rational narrative resembling debate, but the coloured paintings are generally of a sensitive origin or so generalized as to become metaphysical or even mystic. The colourist’s paintings rarely deal with anything, but rather seem to represent a contribution to reality - an addition which may ignite something new or function like an enlightenment to help viewers to see reality in a different light. Drawings are generally more tied-down tasks and resemble a deliberation or even a chart of the subject - a plan.

If there is something to that which Dagur said - how are we then to understand Ragnheidur Jónsdóttir’s pictures? She is a draughtsman and the pictures she now exhibits at the Kjarvalsstadir Gallery are all drawings, actually charcoal drawings, and so large that these have at first sight hardly anything to do with our accepted ideas about drawings. The pictures are abstract and practically represent a design or texture of nature - as if a stone or a coral had been split and used as a printing-block for the paper. The pictures are grand, confused and impenetrable. In such works one may easily discern references to mythology, genetic history and mystical interpretation of the ultimate logic of existence. Halldór Björn Runólfsson does this easily in his Introduction to the quality programme.

But although the depth of confusion in some of Ragnheidur’s pictures may appear to refer to the primitive confusion from which the world is considered to have orgininated and which was named Eyn Soph in the writings of the agnostics, but Primeval chaos in ancient Icelandic poetry, these will hardly be fully explained by means of such reference. Some of the pictures show some motive and some of these deal with something. But some of the drawings practically meet the aims of the colourist and become something like reality. This is not imitation, interpretation or deliberation, but most similar to that which we perceive when we close our eyes or look at landscape from an uncommon distance and it begins to resemble some kind of design without ever becoming quite regular. Such pictures do more resemble music than pictorial art.

As National Librarian Gudmundur Finnbogason said about musical compositions such pictures need not be interpreted. These are not only independent of all languages and unrelated to any specific circumstances or cultural world, but equally independent of both the viewer and the artist. They acquire an independent existence and challenge us as does the earth itself and the entire nature. The artist has then become a sort of medium or instrument through which reality appears. He does not inspect existence and colour it in a narrative, but allows it to create itself with the means and methods at his disposal.

Such pictures are both complex and simple, being beyond that which we can include in a narrative and a symbol. Ragnheidur Jónsdóttir is the master of these pictures - she created them - but the pictures she drew represent more than art. These are an unending source of significance, just like reality itself.

Published in DV February 21 1994.

Untitled 1993 - 150x300cm
Untitled 1993 - 150x300cm
Untitled 1993 - 200x150cm