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Listasafn Reykjavíkur / Reykjavik Art Museum

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Hafsteinn Austmann

Spenna

Year
1981
Height
150 cm
Width
200 cm
Category
Málverk
Sub-category
Olíumálverk

Hafsteinn Austmann is one of the most important living representatives of abstract art in Iceland. The roots of the style can be traced to abstract art in 1950s France, where Hafsteinn studied around the middle of that decade. A unique characteristic of Hafsteinn's art was the softness of both the colour palette and composition and the transparency of the actual colours – both of which are undoubtedly connected to the artist's consistent interest in watercolour technique. In his early years Hafsteinn tended towards delicate lyrical abstract paintings in the “French” style, but in the 1970s the artist increasingly took inspiration from art with more conflict and texture, both French and American. There he also developed a close relationship with Þorvaldur Skúlason, who had started a reconsideration of his own art a few years previously. In his book about Hafsteinn Austmann's art, Aðalsteinn Ingólfsson wrote: “It was... in Þorvaldur's “moving pictures” of the Ölfusá river that Hafsteinn found a formal approach, which at once supported what was happening in the palette of the painting, while also forming an independent and dynamic mesh of lines on top of that spectrum of colours. … Yet we see two very different artists – Þorvaldur composed, somewhat tempered in the French way in his formal approach, not given to improvisation, and Hafsteinn impetuous, romantic in his palette and gifted at working with sudden inspiration.” (Aðalsteinn Ingólfsson: (Aðalsteinn Ingólfsson, Kvika, Myndverk Hafsteins Austmann, 1950-2010, Listasafn Kópavogs, 2010, bls. 26.) This painting is characterised both by great mobility of form and line, as well as the very precise delineation of the forms. The innate imbalance of the composition, where the main emphasis is on the left side of the picture plane, is rather unusual for Hafsteinn. Þorvaldur's work brings to mind the transformations of nature, while Hafsteinn on the other hand seems to take account of the vastness of space, where satellites and heavenly bodies glide in their orbits, bathed in unearthly light.

Other works by artist