Mortensen, Gudni Works Are Paradox
27 January 2006
Santa Monica Daily Press
BERGAMOT STATION - Along with all the other pollutants permeating the Southland, the one we most likely turn a deaf ear to is noise pollution. Icelandic artist Georg Gudni and Viggo Mortensen - yes, the actor - present an exhibition at the Track 16 gallery that works in a way to both silence and embrace the noisy tumult of living in urban sprawl.
'The Nature of Landscape and Independent Perception' is an exhibition operating off different levels of paradox. Juxtaposing Gudni's works of calm countryside with Mortensen's images of chaos is the most severe level of visual contradiction. Using nature as fodder for a quintessentially artificial medium is as seemingly ironic as abstracting something as concrete and tangible as the earth. However, that is exactly what Gudni does with his oil paintings and charcoal drawings depicting Iceland's flat landscape.
By stripping each scene of any and all identifying features while also using a subject matter that is so bereft of uniqueness, the most common complaints levied against Gudni's works is that they are too primitive, too boring, or too 'able to be done by my five-year-old.' The colors of the artist's paints are muted and dull. He is successful in portraying the flat Icelandic landscape, but in technical terms that is nothing extraordinary. Perhaps that is the point.
For the most part, Gudni partakes in a classical genre of Icelandic painting - portraying landscape. His offering focuses on texture, subtle nuance and the concept of universality in anonymity. The lack of identity is even hinted at in the names of the works as they are all titled 'Untitled'. These landscapes can be of any flat pieces of earth and in fact are the representations of an Agoraphobic's worst nightmares. With little effort, they are eerie as a resounding silence emanates from them. But perhaps the most perplexing thing to take note of is that Gudni's artworks are probably what we think of when we imagine uncluttered, verdant landscape; for many, he has materialized something that exists in our collective imagination and for some reason it is oddly unsettling.
Of Gudni's works, Mortensen said, 'His work takes time and a certain amount of quiet meditation to fully appreciate.'
Mortensen's pictures of abstracted nature and light cut the static and straightforwardness of the exhibition. The images of light writhe and contort as if caught in a whirlwind. For some, it appears as if Mortensen has captured the bright lights of drug-induced hallucination. For others, a true season of autumn seen blurry through a peephole lens. As Gudni's paintings confer a sense of calm, Mortensen's photos offer a sinuous feel of velocity.
Last edited: 11 June 2006 08:19:16