Icelandic art ?
tourists buy paintings is governed by many different reasons and
differs from nation to nation, just as the choice of paintings they
buy. An American told
me “Icelandic art is like art in the States a
hundred years ago. No
one there is doing landscapes any more.
That is why I would like to buy an Icelandic painting,
because paintings like this have become a rarity in the States.”
It has also been said that to be able to enjoy the art you
have to understand it and know how to appreciate it on its own
terms. Frank Willett, who has studied and lectured on African art
and art history, says “The only sensible way to approach foreign
art traditions is on their own terms, and so as not to prejudge them we should speak of them by their regions of origin as
traditional African, Oceanic or American art” (Willett 1986:28).
Icelandic art lover
the Icelandic buyer, the artist is often what people seek.
They like the paintings of a specific artist and want to
own a piece by him/her. Icelanders
living abroad especially think it is important to own paintings by
an esteemed Icelandic artist.
Icelanders are conservative in the respect that they rarely
dare to buy art objects in strong colours, especially if it is
meant as a gift.
Icelandic home usually has a wide variety of art objects that have
accumulated during the years, combinations of gifts from friends
and family, from artists that have appealed to them during the
years. Many say their
taste has changed over the years and that this gives the home an
interesting collection. Icelandic
homes are full of art but differ from the Faroese home, which tend
to have a huge collection of similar paintings.
The Icelandic home more commonly has an odd collection of
various objects which still makes a whole in a given home.
are mostly drawn to paintings of landscape and knowing the
location seems to play a big role in which landscape painting is
chosen. They agree
that the nature does not seem to be a big part of Icelandic
culture and that many Icelanders are alienated from it.
This can be seen by the way the Icelanders themselves dress
when up on mountains or in the wilderness, which is in most cases not
appropriate given place and weather.
The tourists themselves say they are often better prepared
for the Icelandic weather and nature and probably feel more
closeness to it than many Icelanders.
They know how to appreciate this unspoiled and clean nature
but the Icelanders seem to take it for granted by not bothering in
many cases to stop the car and walk around.
paintings of houses, people or some figures are nice they say but
the nature is what has influenced them the most when coming here
and thus, a beautiful water-colour painting of a landscape is the
best thing to bring back to remember this trip.
also take photos and most tourists say they have endless negatives
of mountains, waterfalls and snowfields.
gives an interesting twist to Willett’s theory whereas here the
tourists understand the subject of the art rather than the art
understand the nature on its own term and thus are able to
enjoy paintings of Icelandic landscape.
natural (that is coming from nature) seems to attract the tourist.
In shops selling mystic merchandise, tourists look for
Icelandic energy stones. Demand
for rune stones has also been considerable, but a shop owner told
me the stones themselves have to be picked on an Icelandic beach
and hand painted. This
is something she found out and did, as the imported rune stone did
not sell. The
tourists also find it important to know from which beach the
stones came from.
same tourist traits were shown when interviewing the artists from
one mosaic and two ceramic workshops.
“Items with Icelandic natural stones sell well.”
The tourists want all natural while everything with gold is
working for the Icelandic buyer.
buying the Icelandic pullovers, tourists in almost all cases ask
for pullovers in the natural Icelandic sheep-colours.
The tourists refer to these as ‘calm’ pullovers, their
perception of the nature has transferred over to the colours of
the pullovers and the natural sheep wool colours have become
‘calm’ like the nature itself.
the tourists are most likely to buy landscape art, the artists
claim they would not paint anything they didn't want to paint. “But
sometimes you make exceptions”, one said. “Everybody has to earn
the landscape, paintings of puffins, sheep and plovers seem to be
the next popular thing. Many
of the artists resemble each other in these paintings which are
often in a rather naïve style and frequently don’t show
anything more than a faceless sheep on a hill.
It is common for this type of painting to be a little raw
or naive, with no shadows, or any detail and often in strong
paintings also often have a humorist touch where the animals are
portrayed with philosophical expressions.
These painting are very popular with Icelanders.
are maybe the most popular animal with the tourists and this is
reflected in the demand for Puffin souvenirs.
The American tourists, a gold smith told me, have asked so
many times about small puffin amulets to for their
bracelets that next summer they will start making some.
These amulet bracelets are not known in Iceland and it will
be curious to see the development in ten or even five years if
amulets bracelets become a great hit with Icelandic youth.
living in Iceland
who come regularly to Iceland and who stay over a certain period
of time, can be more specific about what they want and allow
themselves to wait for something very special to come along.
Sometimes people also wait due to financial reasons as
those who stay longer or come more often tend to want bigger
paintings than those who are just stopping for a few weeks.
who lived here for a period of few years also talked about
Icelanders obviously being proud of their art objects and much of
the art they owned were gifts from Icelandic friends who felt it
important their foreign friends got to know and appreciate