Gunnar Örn Gunnarsson was a self-taught painter with a keen sense of colour and musical gifts which proved useful for him in his career, which spanned almost 30 years. Gunnar Örn first appeared on the art scene in the early 1970s and attracted attention for his energetic use of colour and his intense approach to the human body. Two artists were especially important influences on his art: British painter Francis Bacon and Willem de Kooning from the USA. From Bacon Gunnar learned to distort the human form and present it in a dramatic fashion. And the influence of de Kooning’s seated women is discernible in many of Gunnar's works, in addition to which his use of the palette knife and disruption of colour has many parallels in the work of the American artist.
In Icelandic art between 1968 and 1974, many artists addressed the theme of the inhumane surroundings of man, and the concomitant disempowerment and alienation. This was undoubtedly under the influence of the political turmoil that swept the western world at the time, where most established values came under scrutiny. Among the principal painters carrying the banners of social commentary and reconsideration of norms were Einar Hákonarson, Gunnar Örn, Eiríkur Smith and Róska, while other manifestations of the trend may be seen in the paintings and graphic art of Jóhanna Bogadóttir, Ragnheiður Jónsdóttir, Jón Reykdal, the sculptures of Helgi Gíslason and the textile works of Hildur Hákonardóttir. And in the wider world, Icelandic expatriate artist Erró concurred with the criticism of inhumanity apparent in the works of the artists mentioned above.