The Icelandic Visual Arts Council presents the Icelandic Art Prize 2022, providing support to outstanding visual artists as well as encouraging new artistic creation. The winner was announced on March 17th in Reykjavík.

The duo Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir (b. 1955) & Mark Wilson (b. 1954) are the recipients of the Art Prize 2022 for their exhibition Visitatons at Akureyri Art Museum.

Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir & Mark Wilson. Photo: Margrét Seema Takyar.

The exhibition is the result of the multi-year research project Polar Bears Out of Place, which they undertook in collaboration with experts in folklore, natural and environmental studies. The aim of the project is to contribute to a growing body of knowledge concerning human/non-human relations in a time of global warming. To this end, particular focus is on polar bear arrivals in Iceland both past and present.

The works in the exhibition cast a light on questions of nature conservation and examine stories about run-ins between polar bears and people over time and what happens when these two predators meet. Polar bears are not welcome visitors in Iceland any more than in other human settlements, but their visits place the society in the context of the wild nature man has gradually managed to exterminate. Polar bear visits to the human world draw attention to our anthropocentric attitudes and how wild nature is marginalised and excluded as an alien terror. The context, the reasons for polar bears seeking out areas habited by man, such as the melting polar ice cap and its accompanying changes to the ecosystem, are the main motifs in this exhibition which makes us face the thoughtlessness we show nature. 

Apart from the exhibition at Akureyri Art Museum, Gerðarsafn in Kópavogur held a retrospective of the works of Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson, but the pair celebrated 20 years of collaboration last year. The interplay between these two exhibitions is interesting and clearly demonstrates their development of artistic research.

Exhibition view Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir & Mark Wilson, Visitations, 2021. Photo: Daníel Starrason.

Their career is multiform and they have used the research methods of contemporary art to enter a dialogue with research in other fields, such as natural science, ethnology and environmental studies. According to them, contemporary art methods
can bring an important addition to the dialogue between different fields and bring new and unexpected points into view. 

Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson use diverse methods to present their work, where interaction of video works, found objects, drawings, photos and various data shapes the installation in each exhibition. Their installation at Akureyri Art Museum was powerful and enlightening and formed an interesting whole in the museum space.  The project Polar Bears Out of Place was awarded a three-year grant from Rannís’ Research Fund (2019-2021) and is the first visual art research project to receive this grant. The project is housed within Iceland University of the Arts.

Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir & Mark Wilson, Shooting the Messenger ♂ and ♀ (Iceland), 2021. From Visitations at Akureyri Art Museum Photo: Daníel Starrason.

Bryndís H. Snæbjörnsdóttir (b. 1955) is a professor of the fine art department at the Iceland University of the Arts. Snæbjörnsdóttir graduated from Glasgow School of Art and has a Ph.D. from the university in Gothenburg since 2009.

Mark Wilson (b. 1954) is a professor in Fine Art at the Institute of the Arts, University of Cumbria, UK. He graduated from the University of Sunderland and in 2013 a Ph.D. from the University of Lancaster.

The Icelandic Visual Arts Council also presented other awards and prizes.

The recipients of the Motivational Award 2022 are Lucky 3 for their performance PUTI at Sequences X Art Festival 2021. The work is described as a social choreography, reflecting the reality of racial roles and the hierarchy of power in the community. The group was formedform in 2019 by three artists who trace their origin to the Philippines: Dýrfinna Benita Basalan (b.1992), Darren Mark (b. 1993) and Melanie Ubaldo (b. 1992). When working together, they use their heritage and the constant cultural conflicts of their lives.  The performance was challenging and aggressive and left no one untouched

Lucky 3: Dýrfinna Benita Basalan, Darren Mark and Melanie Ubaldo. Photo: Margrét Seema Takyar.

The Honorary Award 2022 is given to an artist whose long and successful career has made a significant mark on the history of Icelandic art. The recipient of the 2021 award is Kristján Guðmundsson (b. 1941).  When looking over his career of over five decades, it becomes clear that the value of his works is first and foremost found in their intellectual meaning and the artist’s endeavour to create a new meaning. His work is diverse, both in approach and media, but often characterised by systematic methods and humour. He has shown us symmetry and simplicity in everyday items and strategically explored the potential of the medium and material he works in at any given time. His works have been instrumental in changing our position towards things and thus changing the world around us.

Kristján Guðmundsson. Photo: Lilja Birgisdóttir

An additional award for a Publication on Contemporary Art 2022 is presented to Inga S. Ragnarsdóttir and Kristín G. Guðnadóttir for their book Deiglumór: Keramík úr íslenskum leir 1930-1970 (Ceramics from Icelandic Clay). The book offers a detailed description of the activities of a few clay workshops between 1930 and 1970, when the crafting of Icelandic clay was at its peak.

For the first time, awards will be given for the Retrospective of the year and the group show of the year. The National Gallery of Iceland received for receive an award for their extensive exhibition, Threads of Art, covering a 60-year period, from 1958 to 2018, with 60 works of 37 artists. The interesting and diverse selection of textile art from this period by curators Dagný Heiðdal and Harpa Þórsdóttir was particularly enlightening. The exhibition gave museum visitors an insight into the development of an art form that until recently was almost exclusively practiced by women and has until now not got the recognition it deserves.  

The group show of the year is the ambitious international exhibition Resonance at the Factory at Hjalteyri in the north of Iceland  It has long been the strength and character of the art scene in Iceland that the artists themselves have often organized ambitious international exhibition projects surrounding their own art in a wider context than otherwise would have been possible.

At the heart of the exhibition lie the works of Olga Bergmann and Anna Hallin, who notably invited interesting international artists to supplement the central character of their works.

Anna Hallin, Cyborgs, 2021. From Resonance at the Factory at Hjalteyri