The third exhibition recently visited is in the National Gallery of the Faroe Islands, Thorshavn. It is also called The Faroe Islands Art Museum. Here is a small sample of what is there.
The Gallery is situated, up the hill from the city centre, in Vidarlundin park, a heavily-wooded, unbuilt-up area dotted with sculptures. This is but one example, near the Gallery itself.
For a national Gallery, the approach and front are exceeding modest. In fact, it was quite difficult to find the front door. This view is from there, along the ‘front’ including a significant extension in 1993. The opposite of portentous, it fits in well with its woodland environment and provides lots of naturally-lit space for a large and varied exhibition.
The start of the public collection of Faroese art began during the war in the 1940s when the Faroese Art Society was established, so the idea of a ‘national art’ as a public resource is relatively new. The collection now includes some 2000 works, dating from the 1840s to the present. This includes the largest collection of works by S.Joensen-Mikines (1906-79), though he is unrepresented in my slightly unauthorised selection. Unsurprisingly, in an archipelago of dramatic scenery dominated by the weather and the sea, much of the collection on view reflects the Faroese landscape and traditional culture, with an emphasis on representational art.
These first two works – ignore the middle painting – provide a good example.
The left hand painting is by Sigrun Gunnarsdottir (1950- ) ‘The Book of Books’ 2002 Acrylic on canvas 130 x 95.5 cm.
Both it and the painting on the right portray the artist’s mother in her working clothes. The oversized hands are folded in prayer on the left; both show a Bible on the table close to the subject, indicating a life ‘grounded in faith’. Bottom right is a small bird on the floor in a shaft of light, referencing Matthew 10.29 about a sparrow falling to the ground. The Gallery describes the style as ‘Naivistic’; whatever its symbolism bedded in traditional values and life-style, the realism in such a portrait of 2002 is very striking.
In contrast are two marine paintings:
Both are by Jack Kampmann (1914-1989). On the left is ‘Smack on slipway’ 1959 Oil on canvas 46 x 55 cm; on the right is ‘British trawler’ 1959 Oil on canvas 35 x 55 cm. Hints of abstraction in the mid-20th century.
Also mid-20th century, vividly realistic about both the vernacular architecture and the intrusion of wirescape, is this figurative village view:
Steffan Danielsen (1922-76), ‘A geilini in Nolsoy’ 1969 Oil on canvas 51 x 101cm.
The day after I visited the Gallery I was exploring the village on the island of Nolsoy when I suddenly realised that I was sitting in the bottom right hand corner of this painting. The scene is recognisably still there 50 years after it was painted.
What a contrast yet again with the oil on canvas triptych ‘Mountain Landscape’ (1983) by Ingalvur av Reyni ( 1920-2005). 2m tall and just over 5m long, this painting does not immediately reveal the scene that inspired it.
Even more dramatic and, despite first impressions, still linked inextricably to the locale, is another large painting:
Edward Fugie (1965- ) ‘Colony’ 2006 Acrylic on canvas 160 x 475 cm
A large, 21st century painting with a dramatic visual charge has ‘the impact of a poster and the subtlety of a painting’, as the accompanying leaflet explains. The serried ranks of besuited gannets use the largest bird in the Faroe Islands to express power ‘about a leader who assumes control over others , while they themselves want to be like him.’
I enjoyed my visit to this unassuming and revealing Gallery and apologise both for the absence of any accents on my use of local words here and for any offence in taking a few photographs where I suspect photography is not allowed.