Contemporary art in the Faroe Islands 1

Zacharias Heinesen

Zacharias Heinesen

The Faroese visual art has hardly ever been as manifold as it is today. Despite the relatively small size of the country (c 50.000 inhabitants) and the fact that Faroese art history is comparatively young, the quality of Faroese art seems remarkably high and the cultural scene seems to be thriving with lots of exhibitions, plays, festivals and conserts. I will try to characterize Faroese contemporary art and artists in a series of articles.

Zacharias Heinesen (1936) has been devoting himself and his attention to the Faroese landscape and surroundings through half a century of working with art. His renowned semi abstract compositions with square and triangular houses and mountains in bright lucid colours have inspired many a Faroese artist. The motif that persistently seems to preoccupy his interest is the village by the ocean. The atmosphere in his work appears light and the compositions seem relatively straightforward. The artistic enterprise appears to consist largely of registering the light conditions in nature.

In Torbjørn Olsen’s (1956) colouristic paintings the sensuousness appears almost tangible. He is not fond of being called a “literary painter” or an illustrator. Nevertheless it can be ascertained that he in his altarpieces is getting a lot of inspiration from the Biblical stories and from people. A whole lot of things seem to happen when he has living people standing in front of him as models. He need not worry about the literary aspect as his works always seem to expound the story or the model in a universal way that often takes its origins in a fundamental existential doubt.

In the work of the younger generation the interest in the Faroese landscape as subject matter seems to decline while the interest in the human mind, existential or philosophical questions or the internal landscapes seems to rise. This development is a natural result of globalization and the fact that Faroese artists get their education abroad and that not so few of them continue to live and work outside of the Faroe Islands.

Torbjørn Olsen

Torbjørn Olsen

Føroyar or the Faroe Islands are a North Atlantic archipelago located 200 miles (320 km) north-northwest of the United Kingdom and about halfway between Norway and Iceland— an autonomous country of the Kingdom of Denmark. Total area is about 1,400 square kilometres  with a population of approximately 50.000. The terrain is rugged; the climate is subpolar oceanic climate —windy, wet, cloudy, and cool. Temperatures average above freezing throughout the year because of the Gulf Stream. Between 1035 and 1814, the Faroes were part of the Hereditary Kingdom of Norway. In 1814, the Treaty of Kiel granted Denmark control over the islands, along with two other Norwegian island possessions: Greenland and Iceland. The Faroe Islands have been a self-governing country within the Kingdom of Denmark since 1948. The Faroese have control of most of their domestic affairs. Those that are the responsibility of Denmark include military defence, policing and the justice department, currency, and foreign affairs. However, as they are not part of the same customs area as Denmark, the Faroe Islands have an independent trade policy and can establish trade agreements with other states. Faroese is spoken as a first language in the Faroe Islands. Faroese written literature has only really developed in the past 100–200 years. This is mainly because of the islands' isolation, and also because the Faroese language was not written down in a standardised format until 1890. The Danish language was also encouraged at the expense of Faroese. Nevertheless, the Faroes have produced several authors and poets. (Wikipedia)