Reflections on Mental Realism
Eight Icelandic photographers will exhibit their work at the group exhibition Reflection at the National Gallery of Photography in the National Museum of Iceland on May 17th. These eight photographers are the founding members of the newly created Society of Icelandic Contemporary Photography, a society which aims to carve out a space for photography as an artistic form, and to create a forum for photographers and scholars alike to discuss and explore the possibilities that are inherent in the photographic medium as an art form.
The Icelandic contemporary photographers in question do not use the photographic medium to recreate past moments, but rather to reflect upon the possibility and the impossibility of using the medium to reconstruct elements of a mental reality which upset the notions of past and present. This is the kind of realism that may be experienced at a certain moment when facing nature of such epic proportions that it seems to return our gaze and look back at us, turning us into the object of study. Also, when something sudden happens that stirs up feelings of times long gone, for instance when one rediscovers a crack in a fence or a blurring curtain that suddenly calls forth emotions and memories that have laid dormant until this unprepared moment arrived. This is the mental realism in Icelandic Contemporary Photography that will be on display at the National Museum of Iceland on May 16th. Hopefully the exhibition will draw due attention to the photograph as an artistic medium.
The eight photographers that take part in the Reflection exhibition are Katrín Elvarsdóttir, Spessi, Pétur Thomsen, Einar Falur Ingólfsson, Ívar Brynjólfsson, Bára Kristinsdóttir, Bragi Þór Jósefsson and Þórdís Erla Ágústsdóttir. What one notices when exploring their artistic careers are their different backgrounds and the different ways in which they have been entered or not entered, the Icelandic art scene in recent years. Four of the photographers in the group studied photography in art schools in the U.S. while the other half gained their education and experience as photographic artists on the European continent. This has obviously brought both a certain degree of variety and several strong common elements which echo the international photographic art scene, elements that have been subsumed under the concept of mental realism.
The photograph as an artistic medium has been gaining more and more attention on the international art scene in recent years. For some reason, this has not happened in the art scene in Iceland, a fact that according to the eight photographers may be explained by the limited understanding of the photograph as a medium and artistic form in Iceland. Too much weight has been placed on the documentary value of photography – resulting in a lack of reflection about what a photograph really is and what it can be. The aim of the Society of Icelandic Contemporary Photography is to change this situation. By creating this group exhibition in co-operation with the National Gallery of Photography and Reykjavík Arts Festival, the Society wants to encourage people to reflect on the photograph as an art form and as a medium that can be used to deconstruct and reconstruct both inner and outer reality.
To follow up the discussion, the National Museum will publish a book featuring the artists’ works, as well as a philosophical text on their work and detailed interviews with the artists themselves. On May 17th, the dialogue will continue with a seminar on contemporary Icelandic photography where art historians, cultural theorists and photographers will meet to discuss the reality that is facing the medium as well as the reality reflected by Icelandic contemporary photography.
LIST Icelandic Art News. Page last updated 29 May 2008. Texts and images copyright © 2008 by the authors. For inquiries and contact information see about us.