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Guðjón Ketilsson: Jæja

1 October, 202215 January, 2023

“Jæja” – the word is like a found object in the Icelandic vocabulary. One can resort to it on almost any occasion. On its own, it means very little, but everyone can make it their own and put it into context so that it acquires meaning. Guðjón Ketilsson creates his art with a similar methodology, he spots things and by taking them to hand and showing us in a new context, he gives them value.

Artist Guðjón Ketilsson has explored many ways over the period of his extensive career. He has made sculpture a priority, but drawing also plays a major role in his artistic creation. Prominent in his work is the emphasis on craftsmanship, as his works are known for their artistry, ingenuity and devotion. The body is there at the center, and its extension through clothes and tools, as well as habitat and other things in its immediate surroundings. Guðjón communicates this with an effective interplay of presence and absence, materiality and emptiness, surface and content. Language is also an important factor, less in terms of the meaning of the words, and rather connected to the world of symbolism, where the context of single and different symbols conjures up a coherent meaning.

At a mid-career retrospective of Ketilsson, one can expect to see sculptures composed of found furniture that he has treated in his own unique way, refined wooden sculptures that resemble obsolete objects in a folk museum, high-precision drawings of buildings in Norðurmýri (a neighborhood in Reykjavík), a collection of detritus he has collected in his walks and arranged in one piece, and clothing – all kinds of clothing carved in wood, such as shoes, loincloths and hats.

Guðjón Ketilsson is the sixth artist selected to participate in the Reykjavík Art Museum’s exhibition series at Kjarvalsstaðir, where the careers of key figures in Icelandic art life are reviewed. Each of them is chosen with regard to their unique contribution and specialization in their field, both in terms of media, methods and subject matter. The status check is done through the display of key works from different periods in the artist’s career, in the West Gallery at Reykjavík Art Museum – Kjarvalsstaðir, and through the publication of an exhibition catalog which reflects on the work in the context of art history and the present.

Curator Markús Þór Andrésson.