– where beauty alone reigns?


Tindafjöll. Jóhannes Kjarval

I have never seen landscape like this! Is the comment from almost everybody – even the most seasoned travelers – when they experience the highlands of Iceland for the first time. Natives and visitors alike. The colors, contrasts, forms, flora and fauna as well as the sounds – or silence – are so unbelievably varied that it takes one´s breath away; again and again. So, no wonder that the magical highlands have lured Icelandic artist into its realms time and time again – and still do.

How the artists have expressed their experience of the highlands can now be seen at the new exhibition of Reykjavík Art Museum called NO MAN´S LAND – where beauty alone reigns? On display are works of 31 Icelandic artists at two locations: Kjarvalsstadir museum and Hafnarhusid museum. The exhibition is a part of the 2018 Reykjavík Arts Festival and the centennial celebration of Iceland´s sovereignty; an exhibition that no art or nature lover should miss!

At Kjarvalsstadir are displayed paintings by the older generation of artist; the oldest works from the beginning of the 20th century and the youngest from around the end of that century. The early artist lived in an era where it was almost unthinkable for someone to make a living in Iceland as an artist. Most people lived on farms where all hands on deck were needed, but nevertheless a few ventured to study art. Those first artist mostly painted undeniably beautiful nature. Iceland had also finally re-gained its independence in 1918 and to display the country´s beauty was part of the celebration. Then artists started to look at different parts of Iceland, such as the highlands where there are even desserts, and discovered the extraordinary beauty of this so called no man´s land. Even in bad weather these places have special dark lure, as those work of Iceland´s earliest artists clearly show. And through their work Icelanders learned that in these moorlands of maybe only outlaws was to be found beauty like nowhere else; black lava and sand in stark contrast with brightly colored green hills. Deep blue lakes amidst black sandy hills and multi colored mountains of the many hot spring areas of the highlands. The works of these artists can now be at the Kjarvalsstadir exhibition.

Once artists started expressing the lure of the highlands there was no turning back. Icelanders learned that lava and moss could actually be beautiful, and that pitch black landscape had many nuances. As things progressed, Icelanders moved from the farms to the city and towns – and became travelers in their own country. They started to appreciate the untouched nature and the true magic of the highlands. Artists of the 21st century have been especially diligent in expressing their love for this no man´s land – or rather the land of all the people of Iceland.
Their works are shown at Reykjavik Art Museum – Hafnarhúsid, and now the artists express the highlands through all kinds of means – not only paintings as the older generation did. Here we have sculptors, installations, videos, photographs, water and more that can make the museum visitor feel that he is within the realms the highlands, instead of just looking at them. But now we also start to see the fight for the untouched expanse of nature, as there are many that see monetary value in the highlands. This fight is still very much going on and the reason why is very obvious when one has the chance to visit the highlands – and it is also obvious through the eyes of the Icelandic artist displaying what can only be called: Where beauty alone reigns!


Ásgrímur Jónsson
Eiríkur Smith
Finnur Jónsson
Guðmundur Einarsson frá Miðdal
Guðrún Kristjánsdóttir
Jóhannes S. Kjarval
Jón Stefánsson
Júlíana Sveinsdóttir
Kristinn Pétursson
Kristín Jónsdóttir
Ragnheiður Jónsdóttir Ream
Stefán Stórval Jónsson
Sveinn Þórarinsson
Þorbjörg Höskuldsdóttir

Anna Líndal
Einar Falur Ingólfsson
Einar Garibaldi Eiríksson
Georg Guðni Hauksson
Hallgerður Hallgrímsdóttir
Hekla Dögg Jónsdóttir
Húbert Nói Jóhannesson
Katrín Sigurðardóttir
Kristinn E. Hrafnsson
Ólafur Elíasson
Ósk Vilhjálmsdóttir
Pétur Thomsen
Ragna Róbertsdóttir
Sigurður Guðjónsson
Steinunn Gunnlaugsdóttir
Unnar Örn J. Auðarson