Pétur Kristjánsson – Tinkering ideas

Opening June 17, 16:00-18:00, in the Skaftfell gallery

On view until September 5, 2021. Open Tue-Sun from 13:00-17:00. Closed on Mondays.

Guided tour and artist talk on June 19, 15:00-16:00 (in Icelandic), and on June 20, 15:00-16:00 (in English)

Pétur Kristjánsson is more than an artist. A resident of Seyðisfjörður since the 1980s, he played an important role in establishing Skaftfell and the Dieter Roth Academy, and has until recently been the director of the Technical Museum of East Iceland. He has been a key figure in the town’s cultural life and has worked consistently on his art, while at the same time creating opportunities for other artists.

Pétur often works with the detritus of our consumer society, in particular with objects that are thrown away or abandoned. His work invites a reconsideration of the value we place on the things that surround us, finding new uses and roles for broken and rejected objects, and reflecting on what we find beautiful and valuable. These works offer a critique of consumer society’s attitude towards the objects that surround and shape us. The artist’s intense interest in objects is rooted in his speculations about where and how they originated, and it can be said that this deep fascination with things and their life cycles is Pétur’s starting point for this exhibition. 

In Tinkering ideas, Pétur’s artistic approach proposes that the act of tinkering – of creating through fiddling and learning-by-doing – may enhance our skills, perceptions and self-confidence through self-guided learning about material, form, function and context. At the same time, tinkering allows us to test ourselves in the unrestrained flow of creation. The artist inserts his own speculations about objects into the context of modern society, contrasting his almost alchemical approach to making and thinking with modernism’s excessive belief in information, data collection and rationality. As an additional layer, Pétur uses the aesthetics of comics as a kind of filter on reality, which suggests not taking anything within our perceived reality too seriously. 

Tinkering ideas was originally planned to go hand in hand with Pétur’s retirement from the Technical Museum of East Iceland. However, due to the pandemic and the landslides of December 2020, the exhibition has had a difficult birth. Many of Pétur’s older works were stored in Turninn, one of the houses that were destroyed in the landslides, and the concept of the exhibition as a retrospective spanning 30 years of artistic activity had to be rethought. The loss of many of Pétur’s older artworks has meanwhile also made room for new ideas, which have now taken shape in this exhibition, confidently replacing what is gone forever. While mourning the lost artworks, the opening of Tinkering ideas thereby also celebrates the limitlessness, diversity and resilience of creativity. 

Pétur Kristjánsson (b. 1952) studied agriculture at Hólar in Hjaltadalur and holds a BA in Ethnology from Lund University, Sweden. Among many other things he was the director of the Technical Museum of East Iceland in Seyðisfjörður from 1986-2019. As an artist Pétur is self-educated. Having worked closely with Swiss/German artist Dieter Roth from 1991 to 1998 he is a founding member and professor of the Dieter Roth Academy. Pétur has exhibited regularly in Iceland and Europe since 1991. 

Curators: Hanna Christel Sigurkarlsdóttir and Julia Martin

Image: Pétur Kristjánsson