Tíra / Scintilla – Bjargey Ólafsdóttir

Current artist in residence Bjargey Ólafsdóttir (IS) presents her exhibition Tíra / Scintilla in the Skaftfell gallery from May 11 to May 30. Access is through the bistro, on weekdays 12:00 -13:00 and 18:00 – 20:00, on Sat/Sun 18:00 – 20:00, or by appointment (call Skaftfell on 4721632).

Bjargey Ólafsdóttir lives and works in Reykjavík. She studied photography, painting and mixed media at Iceland Academy of the Arts, Reykjavík and Academy of Fine Arts Helsinki, and she studied Screenwriting and Directing in Binger Filmlab, Amsterdam. Bjargey’s practice is not confined to a single medium as each of her projects calls for a different tool: photography, film, sound art, performance and drawing.

For her photo series Scintilla Bjargey was nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography prize and the Godowski Colour photography Award. She first exhibited Scintilla in The Reykjavík Museum of Photography in 2009. Now she is showing Scintilla here in Skaftfell where she created the series during her residency in 2008.

The exhibition is a collaboration between Skaftfell and Menningarstofa Fjarðarbyggðar and it will travel to Neskaupsstaður in June.

Bjargey Ólafsdóttir’s work has been shown internationally in numerous exhibitions and festivals, such as The Reykjavík Art Museum, The Reykjavík Museum of Photography, Kunstverein Munich, KunstWerke Berlin,Germany, Galeria Traschi, Santiago Chile, Moderna Museet Stockholm, Sweden, The Moore Space Miami, USA, Manifesta Foundation Amsterdam, Netherlands, Turku Biennale, Finland, MEP, Paris, E-flux New York, WUK Kunsthalle, Vienna, Austria, Tate Modern London, Palm Springs International film festival, USA, Gothenburg Film Festival, Sweden, Aix en Provence international short film festival, France.

“The art of Bjargey Ólafsdóttir is not confined to a single medium – she picks the medium she feels is most apt for each concept. Thus she may be likened to a versatile musician who has mastered many instruments, as Bjargey works in film, sound art, performance art, drawing, painting and photography. In this case she has opted for photography. 

The exhibition Scintilla is a collection of symbols which have come into being, either in the artist’s dreams, or have sprung into her consciousness between sleeping and waking. Bjargey takes the observer with her into a world where beauty and the spiritual reign; where such diverse subjects as the hand of God, mountains, a magic box, an elven baptismal font, scarves and drawings of high-heeled shoes play a role, bathed in a mystical light and gaudy colour. While Bjargey is here continuing to explore the territory of magical realism and surrealism, as in her prior work, she does not focus on the individual as such – she seeks to photograph sensations which are expressed in these objects. Thus the exhibition is not bound together by a specific narrative, but by a sort of flow, where one can forget time and place, and drift into timelessness or oblivion.

Scintilla propels the observer into a maelstrom under the sway of concepts such as trance, healing and transmigration of souls, in the territory of creation and inspiration. Bjargey puts forward this world of the invisible and spiritual as an antidote to the materialistic excesses of present-day lifestyles, pointing out to us that the boundaries of reality may be fluid rather than a straight line. The objective is a noble one: she seeks to photograph the supernatural – even God himself. And is it possible to photograph Him? Or even permissible? In her art, Bjargey instinctively approaches the subject honestly and without preconceptions and – not least – imbues it with humour and playfulness. Whether God is in the magic box; whether he is a ray of light among the scarves in the foreground of a mountain landscape; whether, even, he is inside the high-heeled shoes, Scintilla reminds us to observe that the joys of life reside in the mind, but are ephemeral…”

Jóhanna G. Árnadóttir