The Icelandic Visual Arts Council presents the Icelandic Art Prize 2020, providing support to outstanding visual artists as well as encouraging new artistic creation. 

Nominations for the Artist of the Year 2020

Anna Guðjónsdóttir (b. 1958) is nominated for her exhibition Pars Pro Toto in the A-hall of Reykjavík Art Museum – Hafnarhús. In her exhibition, Anna memorably created a new piece in many, coordinated parts which took over the space and formed an effective whole artistic experience, based on both the material characteristics of the space and on play with the viewer’s perception.

Installation view of Pars Pro Toto. Courtesy of the artist. 

Anna has for years lived in Germany, where she studied post-grad, has held regular exhibitions and been awarded distinguished awards. She started out studying sculpture at the Icelandic College of Art and Crafts but her art also has roots in painting and in her career she has grappled with classic questions about the boundaries between two-dimensional, painted planes and three-dimensional actual space – the line between the original and the copy.

Guðjón Ketilsson (b. 1956) is nominated for his exhibition Teikn in Reykjanes Art Museum. The exhibition comprised eight works that were connected by a systematic presentation in the exhibition space, all of which revolved around symbols, their significance and “reading” in the widest sense.

LIBRARY,  2018-2019, furniture and books, 115 x 110 x 42 cm. Courtesy of the artist. 

Guðjón has held numerous solo exhibitions and participated in group exhibitions around the world. His work can be found in all major museums in Iceland. He has worked in equal measure at drawings and three-dimensional work, as was evident in this exhibition; his artworks are in general amazingly intricate and contain musings on the existence of man. Many of Guðjón’s works are based on various clues, symbols and quotes which the viewer senses and understands and this was poignantly visible in Teikn.

Hildigunnur Birgisdóttir (b. 1980) is nominated for her double exhibition Universal Sugar – 39.000.000 ISK – 11.900.000 ISK. The exhibition was installed in two different apartments, which shaped its execution in an interesting fashion. The apartment in the Westman Islands was older and less expensive, but the one in Garðabær was in a newish apartment building. In these empty apartments, the artist had systematically placed various mass-produced items which activated the space in an interesting and amusing way, where the visitors moved about like people looking to buy an apartment. The visitors were part of the work – as was the neighbour who appeared at the opening of one of the exhibitions, annoyed over the crowds that filled the apartment and made noise.

Universal Sugar – 39.900.000 ISK 11.900.000 ISK. Courtesy of the artist.

In recent years, Hildigunnur’s works have drawn attention to how she focuses our gaze on systems and items in our surroundings and uses them innocently; even with naive connections, where playing and gaiety is never far away. In her art, Hildigunnur often unveils shortcomings, eccentricities and overlaps which can be found in the world we create around us in contemporary society – and the viewers often discover that in works which appear low-key and yet cheerfully ironic, they themselves are in the centre, they are the subject.

Ragnar Kjartansson (b. 1976) is nominated for the exhibition Figures in Landscape and the eponymous video work in Gallery i8.Seven screens in the exhibition halls showed seven 24-hour silent stories. A large screen, facing Tryggvagata, showed all the stories, one after the other, creating a weeklong, filmed narrative. The screens showed figures in white robes, the uniform of doctors and lab technicians, wandering around a man-made landscape, interacting in various relaxed ways or contemplating, one or more at the time – sometimes the stage was empty and the painted backdrop, which referenced romantic nature, could be enjoyed as a painting.

Figures in Landscape. Courtesy of the artist and i8 Gallery.

Ragnar’s work drew much attention and praise this year. He is widely praised for his art and a great representative for Icelandic artists on the international scene. A retrospective of his work was opened in Kunstmuseum Stuttgart in July, and previously, a new, multi-track video work of his, shot in Skaftártungur, premiered in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Critics at the British newspaper The Guardian selected Ragnar’s work, The Visitors, as the most influential artwork of the last decade.

Nominations for the Motivational Award 2021

Claire Paugam (b. 1991) is nominated for the Motivational Award 2020 for an ambitious and powerful contribution to art this year. Claire is a French artist who has lived in Iceland for years. She graduated from Beaux-Art de Nantes Métropole in 2014, finished her Master’s degree from Iceland University of the Arts in 2016, and has since then been very active on the art scene in Iceland and in France.

Claire usually deals with art and other diverse projects in the field of exhibition management, stage design, music videos, poems and text works. This includes the solo exhibition Pouring Inside in Flæði which was an off-venue event of the art festival Sequences IX, and Versatile Uprising, an interactive installation in Wind and Weather Window Gallery with Raphaël Alexandre.

Claire’s work has a strong personal aesthetic and the jury considers her artistic vision clear and interesting, she is a generous and powerful artist.

Emma Heiðarsdóttir (b. 1990) is nominated for the Motivational Award 2020 for an ambitious and powerful contribution to art this year. In her works, Emma deals with the space of the artwork and prior ideas of the artwork and its function. She redefines and breaks up the viewers’ artistic experience, thereby asking obtrusive questions about the role and meaning of art. Emma’s work is characterised by a restrained viewpoint and methods, strong personal approach and original treatment of material.
In her exhibition, Margin, in the D-hall of Reykjavík Art Museum, Emma used interventions into the space to raise questions about the time and place for art. The viewers’ possibilities to experience and perceive the work, in space and time, were the subject of the exhibition, and by making this connection between a work and its perception, often taken as a given, its subject, Emma managed to create a powerful and provoking whole where work and exhibition space were placed in an unexpected context.
Emma finished an MFA degree from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp in 2018, after graduating from the fine art department of Iceland University of the Arts in 2013. In her works, she asks demanding questions, using disciplined and noteworthy techniques. The jury thinks she vividly deals with subjects close to the core of fine art and artistic experience and that in light of this she is very deserving of this nomination.
Sigurður Ámundason (b. 1986) is nominated for the Motivational Award 2020 for strong and interesting results this year, the highlight being the exhibition Re-renaissance in Kling and Bang, where he exhibited drawings, videos and three-dimensional works which also were part of a performance. He also participated in Chart Emerging and Salts in Basel in Switzerland; in an exhibition in Hverfisgallerí; Around at Reykjavík Roasters; as well as the solo exhibition Dalur eða gljúfur in Ekkisens, his tenth solo exhibition. Sigurður graduated from the fine art department of Iceland University of the Arts in 2012.
Sigurður’s work is simultaneously playful and mournful. The aesthetic is provoking and alternates between fantasy and reality. Large drawings, painstakingly created with a ballpoint pen and colour pencils, form an important part and are often lined up with video works and performances. The viewer is pulled into the dreamlike world of the drawings but straight away brought back down to earth through hyper-real scenes in the videos and the aftermath of the performance.
By using different media, Sigurður not only presents interesting imagery but also creates circumstances where the viewer gets an opportunity to renew their acquaintance with old themes, roam around a new landscape, re-evaluate thoughts and metaphors and approach clichés from high and low art afresh. The jury considers Sigurður well deserving of this nomination. He is unafraid of the absurd and celebrates chaos but he is always true to himself.