Margrét H. Blöndal

A work of art can bring itself to the attention of the viewer through intense color, large scale, or an assertive expressiveness of meaning. But it can also choose to play on different terrain, where allusion replaces explicit declaration, a discreet and almost modest aspect replaces magniloquence, and suspension and expectation replace direct affirmation. The works of Icelandic artist Margrét H. Blöndal are of this latter type. Her drawings, twenty-one of which are included in her current show at Galleria Alessandra Bonomo, derive from a working process that starts with snapshots of everyday things and situations (flowers, animals, the artist’s uncle butchering whale meat). She will often home in on a detail that is marginal in the original photograph, but this detail will somehow activate the filter of memory. Sometimes Blöndal applies olive oil to her paper, which not only causes a halo to form around the image but allows the drawing to penetrate the sheet, showing through to the verso—a gaunt silhouette, almost a ghost of itself—as if transformed into a sort of “inner vision.” The colors are tenuous and delicate, and the images are concentrated and substantially uniform, some almost stylized in their outlines. A closer look at the relationships between the forms and motifs that support the layout of individual images reveals that these relationships (chromatic, spatial, graphic) recur from drawing to drawing, constituting, through analogies and similarities, small, substantially homogeneous groups.

On view as well are six objectlike assemblages (which all share the title Allusion and are dated between 2005 and 2007) made from basic, discarded materials, among them nails, string, rubber, rags, wood, and polystyrene. Some tubes and shocking-pink rubber fragments are arranged in seemingly casual fashion, in part resting on the ground, in part standing straight against the wall, like snakes climbing up for a brief stretch. The appeal of such works lies somewhere between the visible and the tactile, in a zone of pure sensibility. It is as if the artist were asking us to perceive the very fact that we are capable of having perceptions of the world—in other words, to acknowledge the fact of being alive.

A multicolored rag and a yellow rubber fragment, supported by a simple system of strings, hang in one corner of the gallery, just above the height of an average viewer, projecting a shadow on the wall. This configuration allows one to immediately perceive the volume, the empty and negotiable space, the “habitable” distance, between the objects and the wall. The assemblage might seem to strike a playful and ironic note, but the balance between perceptual allusiveness and geometric abstraction gives the work depth. Blöndal takes on space as an interpretive value, which is why whatever place hosts her work seems as if it were becoming truly itself only with her installation; it becomes hard to tell whether the poetic atmosphere is a natural element of the gallery space or a result of the way it has been transformed. With her work’s intelligent, discreet, intimate theatricality, the artist achieves this subtle play between sensitive impulse and mental architecture.

Massimo Carboni

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.