Ragnar Kjartansson: Modern Romantic

Ragnar Kjartansson, Iceland 2019

One of my most memorable (and icy soaking wet) assignments brought me to Iceland in February 2019 where I met the artist Ragnar Kjartansson. He was preparing for a big solo show in Germany and me and photographer Jörg Gläscher joined him on a special project: plainair landscape painting on the lava field of Eldhraun, a vast surreal stretch of bubbly lava crust overgrown with fat green moss. It looks like a set from Lord of the Rings – only much colder with wind and icy rain blasting the skin off your bones. For Icelanders apparently that‘s no reason to stay indoors. So we followed Ragnar out into the cold. He set up his canvas on an easel and started to paint in pouring rain. It was beautiful and stupid, raw and romantic – an exercise in endurance and the perfect introduction in Kjartansson‘s world. (Afterwards he invited us in his home and served whiskey and a delicious hot meal.)

Beautiful and stupid, raw and romantic

The artist who made the Band The National play the same song for six hours straight or let visitors at the Venice Biennale watch him paint nudes in an improvised studio at the Canal Grande for three month is super famous in Iceland and much in demand in the rest of the world. In his works Kjartansson plays with notions of romanticism, deconstructing art history and putting it together in new forms that are both witty, ironic and heartbreakingly beautiful.

Here you can read my profile in art, 7/2019