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Listasafn Reykjavíkur / Reykjavik Art Museum

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Decade

Magnús Kjartansson

Altaristafla

Year
1993
Height
180 cm
Width
374 cm
Category
Málverk
Sub-category
Blönduð tækni

In 1994 Magnús Kjartansson held a milestone exhibition at Kjarvalsstaðir. All the pieces were in a similar vein, enormous paintings in shades of brown, made in mixed media (oils, sawdust and glue on canvas or wooden boards, along with various objects), and many of them divided into two or more parts. The exhibition attracted attention because of the import of the pieces, which all dealt with man and faith, more specifically man's need for faith, his desire for some kind of spiritual certainty and his personal communication with “higher powers.” These “religious” pieces from 1992–94 are at once simple in structure and ambiguous in meaning. As a rule the artist focuses on one or two faces, marked by experience, age or suffering, and communicates that directly to us, unobstructed by colour spectrum or complex composition. The emphasis of each painting is directed inward, into the mind of the people depicted. All of them hide parts of their faces, as if embarrassed to reveal their angst or unhappiness to others, and many of these pieces contain symbols for possible salvation or resolution of the inner problem, if people are willing to use such aids. In this piece, a wooden board is lodged between the two units/faces of the painting, and two objects are attached to the board: a telephone handset above and a cross below, connected by a telephone cord. At first glance this attachment could indicate that the solution to the angst could be in picking up the “phone” and having a direct conversation with Jesus Christ or God. But such a cheap solution is not in the spirit of Magnús. It is equally likely that his intention is ironic, indicating that the solution of the human condition is precisely not in the use of “aids”, whether the “cross” or anything else, but rather in the spiritual strength of man – and the support of others. Hence the wooden board in the middle, between the faces, and the “aids” attached to it, can be seen as a kind of obstacle which divides people rather than uniting them.

Other works by artist