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The Living Art Museum. 2003. A Geometry of Echoes by Eva Heisler

Exhibition Brochure
Sólveig Adalsteinsdóttir
Nýlistasafnid (April-May 2003)

    A Geometry of Echoes: On Two Works by Sólveig Adalsteinsdóttir
Hendingar / Coincidence—Sólveig Adalsteinsdóttir’s series of paired drawings—is difficult to look at.  What initially might appear as delicate markings on paper are the remains of squashed flies: bits of wing, flecks of blood, the smear of an insect’s body.  I am reminded of a friend’s irritation when I swatted a fly on the window and didn’t immediately wipe away the sticky mess.  Unless dead insects are mounted in specimen boxes, one usually isn’t interested in examining them.  Sólveig’s flies certainly aren’t mounted; they are stuck to the paper.  They are framed, not as specimens, but as evidence of impact: here the crook of a leg or the transparent spread of a wing; there a spot of blue-green iridescence; a smear of brown edged with crimson.
     The works that comprise Hendingar were made during one summer in Strandir.  The artist would catch a fly buzzing at the window, drop it on a sheet of paper, and then quickly press another sheet of paper on top of it.  This might be done several times on a given piece of paper.  The two sheets that were pressed together, now pocked with fly remains, constitute one pair in the series.  Although a relationship between the works in a pair is visible—a bit of wing on the
upper left hand corner of one paper might be paralleled by a larger bit of wing on the upper right hand corner of its mate—the paired works generally strike one as different.  Each exertion of pressure generated two different results.
     The Icelandic word “hending” is translated as coincidence, but it has its root in the word for hand.  In the series Hendingar, one witnesses the effect of the artist’s hand—a hand that swats, that claps, that presses, that smoothes, that frames.  Coincidence generally refers to a concurrence of events having no apparent causal connection.  In addition, “hending” is an archaic term referring to internal rhyme in a poem.  Rhyme is a pairing of sound; coincidence also might be considered as a kind of pairing—of occurrence, of experience.  Sólveig’s
Hendingar—with its markings that are bloody, repetitive, intimate, explosive—might serve as commentary on human coupling in which contact and shared experience yield different, although parallel, markings: one encounter; different effects. 
In contrast to the disquiet of Hendingar, Sleep Places / Svefnstaðir is more contemplative.  The series consists of twenty-three ballpoint pen drawings that record the location of the artist’s bed during the past forty-odd years.  Each drawing presents the rough outline of the perimeter of a house. 
The drawings are minimally detailed: lines outline the house and, in most drawings, only the boundaries of one bedroom are indicated.  The position of the artist’s bed is indicated by a rectangle within the square of the bedroom.  The lines appear quick and spontaneous, with only the rectangle of the bed inked in. 
     The drawings are crude; the blue lines are not indifferent but neither are they expressive.  Rather, the lines are exploratory without being descriptive.  The ballpoint pen is a medium associated with writing; the paper is A4, is the size of a manuscript page.  The drawings have the tentative markings of exploratory diary entries or  temporary maps jotted down—not in order to document—but to jar memory.  They form, to use a phrase of Gaston Bachelard’s, “a sort of geometry of echoes.” 
     “Place is pause;” Yi-Fu Tuan states.  “Each pause in movement makes it possible for location to be transformed into place.”  The quick line of the ballpoint pen records the division of space into place; the single rectangle, scribbled dark, stamps the place of further retreat.  The clarity of
contour line is in contrast to the obscurities of sleep: these contours note the place where place itself dissolves into sleep, or revery.  “The chief benefit of the house,” writes Bachelard, is that “the house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.”  It is this house, the house as shelter of dreaming, that is sketched over and again in Sólveig’s series Sleep Places.  

--Eva Heisler