MC Føroyar avmyndar ein grínandi skølt, ið er staddur miðskeiðis í fýrkantaða myndarúminum uppi yvir áskriftini “MC Føroyar”, sum stendur skrivað við ljósum blokkbókstavum við svørtum skugga á brúnari grund. Myndaflatin er bygdur upp av breiðum og smølum strípum, ið eru málaðar á skák eins og strálur kring skøltin. Niðasta brúna strípan minnir um eitt navnaspjaldur, og umframt hana eru strípurnar gráar, hvítar, bláar og reyðar. Tær eru nøkulunda symmetriskt plaseraðar kring skøltin. Perspektiviskt tykist myndin lutfalsliga fløt við grovum umhvarvsstrikum. Málihátturin sýnist sum heild nokkso ráur. Eins og flestar myndir hjá Hanna Bjartalíð er myndin tjúkt málað við ítøkiligum strukturi í málingini.
Myndin minnir um eitt flagg ella eitt búmerki av onkrum slagi. Hon er grafiskt greið og skjót at avlesa, og bæði við uppseting og litum tykist listamaðurin spæla við mótsetningum millum hátíðarligt og óhátíðarligt/forherðað. Myndin er eitt dømi uppá, at listamaðurin viðmerkir og tekur støðu til ymiskt, sum fyriferst í samfelagnum. MC Føroyar er í veruleikanum heitið á einum kristiligum motorsúkkluklubbi, sum síðan 2007 hevur virkað í Føroyum eftir leisti frá norska Holy Riders. Í veruleikanum hevur føroyski motorsúkkluklubburin veingir og kross á teirra búmerki, men listamaðurin hevur í staðin valt ein skølt, sum í flaggkenda høpinum minnir um eitt sjórænaramerki.
Við teimum meira uppbyggiligu tjóðskaparligu flagglitunum fær myndin ein heldur skemtiligan og speiskan dám, sum sæst aftur í nógvum myndum hjá Hanna Bjartalíð, t.d. í steinprentinum frá 2007, ið er ein speisk viðmerking til tey afturhaldssinnaðu, sum vóru ímóti, at grein 266 b í revsilógini eisini skuldi fevna um kynsliga orientering. "Noy" stendur á prentinum, ið sipar til, at teir flestu av neisigarunum vóru av bygd. Steinprentið var við á framsýningini, sum LGBT skipaði fyri í sambandi við stórliga fagnaða tiltakinum Gay Pride 2012.
Myndevnið av skøltinum hevur Hanni Bjartalíð brúkt óteljandi ferðir og á ógvuliga ymiskan hátt. Í barokkmyndum hevur skølturin altíð symbolskan týdning, ið sipar til okkara stokkutu tilveru, lívið í deyðans æviga skugga, og sama týdning sum ítøkiligt deyðssymbol hevur skølturin eisini fingið innan ymisk øki í poppmentanini. Hjá Hanna Bjartalíð gerst skølturin eitt sera fjølbroytt myndevni, hvørs týdningur ikki er avgjørdur frammanundan. Tað er als ikki vist, at hann yvirhøvur hevur innihaldsligan týdning, tí onkuntíð tykist áhugi listamansins fyri skøltinum einans formligur. Skallaskapið er vakurt og grafiska greitt og kann tað sama brúkast myndaliga sum ymisk geometrisk skap sum sirklar ella sum stjørnur.
Í eini mynd á Heystframsýningini í 2010, sum varð brúkt til permumynd á fyrstu útgávuni av tíðarritinum Listin 2010, og sum er málað 2007-08, er skallin eftir øllum at døma settur upp á ein piedestal. Her sæst skallaskapið trælitt og í hvítum, gráum, pink, violettum og gulum litfarrum móti eini myrkabrúnari, blankari bakgrund, men hyggur tú nærri, sæst, at skallaskapið í veruleikanum er karvað inn í myndaflatan, og at litirnir eru restlitir av málingaløgum innanfyri. Sjálvt myndevnið gerst hervið negativt, eitt hol í myndaflatanum, sum um somu tíð tykist aggressivt og skynsamt í síni útinning.
Í einari aðrari skallamynd frá 2008-09 er árinið heilt øðrvísi, dekorativt. Her er øll bakgrundin kring myndevnið útskorin soleiðis, at tað er sjálvur skallin, ið stígur fram eins og eitt relieff úr myndini. Høgrumegin eru tveir loddrættir, rektangulerir myndaliðir, ein bláur og ein reyður. Aftan fyri myndina sæst, at talan í grundini er um eitt skeribretti, sum listamaðurin hevur brúkt til myndaflata, og at myndin altso er sett saman av einum skeribretti og tveimum spælikubbum. Hesir báðir spælikubbarnir, tann reyði og serliga tann blái, tykjast væl brúktir, málingin er slitin av í støðum, og tað er sum um, at teir brúktu readymade lutirnir við hvør sínari søgu leggja í verkið ein serstakan poetiskan dám, á sama hátt sum ramman kring myndina er slitin og sett saman av ymsum træpettum. Onkrastaðni hómast restir av gullmáling, og aðrastaðni sæst eitt sindur av hvítari máling. Sjálvt um báðar myndirnar sipa til litirnar í merkinum og báðar avmynda ein skølt, er eyðvitað stórur munur millum áðurnevnda MC Føroyar og hetta meira stillføra verkið.
Várið 2008 hevði Hanni Bjartalíð serframsýning í Galerie Focus. Her sýndi hann fram fleiri av skallamyndunum, men eisini nakrar serstakar húsalýsingar, ið bóru boð um, at okkurt nýtt var á veg. Listamaðurin greiddi mær frá, at tær avmyndaðu nøkur smá modelhús, sum hann hevði arbeitt við eini tíð. Eg skilti ikki beinanvegin, hvussu stóran týdning hetta hevði, men fataði tó, at listamaðurin var heilt øgiliga spentur um hesi "húsini". Hanni Bjartalíð greiddi frá, at húsini vóru listarliga hugsað, men at tey "um ikki annað" eisini kundu brúkast sum leikutoy hjá soninum, skuldu tey verið heilt við síðuna av listarliga. Arkitekturur hevur sum áður nevnt verið at sæð í fleiri av hansara myndum, men mest sum innirúm, ið hava havt leiklutin sum karmur kring menniskjuni, og ikki sum her, har bygningar brádliga áttu høvuðsleiklutin. Tvær tvímyndir á framsýningini í Focus lýstu hús í nógvum og ymiskum litum, grundlitum, sekunderum litum, grátónalitum osfr.
North Atlantic Pavilion. Liverpool Art Biennial
Sail, island, through the mist
now you are a ship
and the peaks become masts,
heading out in to the vast world
These lines are from the grand opening of the Faroese poet Christian Matras´ famous poem about his native island, Viðoy. It encapsulates the core in Hanni Bjartalíð´s new work for the Liverpool Biennial. In the work, there is an association to this poem, which it is evident in the majestic tone it is executed in. It is both ecstatic and naïve, but most striking is the similarity subject matter. The artist recently told me, that he himself perceives the wooden objects, that he makes, as a sort of platforms or isolated islands floating in the ocean. Interestingly he spent his childhood in Klaksvík the second largest town of the Faroe Islands with 5000 inhabitants, the socalled "fishing-capital", where all contact with the outside world happened by sea. Due to the geographic location in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Faroe Islanders have always been deeply dependent on the ocean and its visitors which provided them with fish and other necessities of life, but sometimes the visitors were forceful or yet hostile. Adding to this the fact that the Faroe Islands have been more or less under Danish rule since the 14. Century (a self-governing country within the Danish Realmsince 1948) might help explain why the Faroese concept of hospitality is slightly strained at times.
Hanni Bjartalíð has a lot of strange and interesting memories from the harbour in Klaksvík. As a child he was frequently playing by the shore, finding shells, stones, pieces of wood, bottles and cans and all sorts of things to play with. He has maintained this fundamental fascination and curiosity, when it comes to finding things with a history, which plays an important part in his practice.
Hanni Bjartalíð’s last exhibition in the North Atlantic House in Copenhagen had the ambigious title "Is Anybody Home?", which can be interpreted on several levels. Superficially, it may be seen as a humorous and a rather simple and direct question to the exhibited wooden objects that look like houses. But beyond that the question also expresses an immediate anxiety and a strong sense of alienation, while it metaphorically refers to the artist's doubt in relation to himself and his own work.
Hanni Bjartalíð is in fact an extremely self-critical artist, whose deep and sincere humility towards his own practice in general seems to have a direct physical impact on his work. He changes and reuses his canvases to such an extent, that they are heavy with paint - even the very small paintings. In fact he usually prefers the small works because he believes that they are more intimate.
Hanni Bjartalíð’s practice expands from painting to collage, assemblage and drawing, but whatever technique he uses, it seems that the method is cumulative as the artist collects and puts together many parts into a unified whole. In his paintings Hanni Bjartalíð’s depiction of the human form is deliberately rudimentary and free and the canvases are often composed by many layers of paint that gives a coarse and noticeable structure and an emphasis on the surface, which frequently seems to be divided into different spaces by lines or colour. This spatial division is extremely important in all of Hanni Bjartalíðs works. It allows him to depict parallel stories simultaneously. The wooden objects he has been working on over the last couple of years represent a culmination of Hanni Bjartalíðs work, but he has never yet worked on such a scale before this new work for the Liverpool Biennial.
Recycling as an art form is central to his artistic process. The wooden objects are preferably made from recycled material: pieces of wood and sticks, and other waste wood and readymade objects, for instance carving boards and toybricks, which he also uses when he pieces some of his two-dimensional works together. The wooden objects were originally the result of an artistic crisis, when he some years ago abandoned painting for a period to devote himself to various wooden figures and houses. They all made sense because if they turned out to have no artistic value, they could be used instead as toys for his sons. In an interview the artist once said, that he has always been fascinated by boxes and that as a child he owned a sewing box of the kind that is provided with stands and several compartments inside. He liked the mysteriousness about boxes as well as their ability to evoke curiosity. I think that Hanni Bjartalíðs houses evoke the same sort of curiosity and that the openings in the structure, that resemble windows in the wall attract the viewer closer as if the viewer is being invited to look inside. There is also a sensitivity and warmth in the way that the wooden objects are carefully assembled. They resemble the small wooden houses, that children build, but they appear much more mysterious and secretive, because of their total lack of function.
Born in 1968, Hanni Bjartalíð was brought up in the Faroe Islands, but even before he moved away and went to art school in Kokkola in Finland 1991, his works defied the familiar expressionistic landscapes and echoes of Cubism that tended to dominate Faroese art. In most of his works Hanni Bjartalíð deals with existential questions, but his early paintings treat in particular domestic issues, which was an exception in Faroese art at the time. In an art historical sense, Faroese visual art presents a rather special situation, as it didn’t develop until the early part of the twentieth century. Hanni Bjartalíð is in fact part of the fourth generation of Faroese artists, which is the first generation to focus on other subjects than the celebrated Faroese landscape.
At an exhibition of Hanni Bjartalíðs paintings in Copenhagen in the mid-nineteen nineties, I overheard among the guests a Danish couple talking at the private view. They seemed uncomfortable and the woman's tone was reproachful as she said: "But I thought you said it was a Faroese exhibition ...". The man replied, a bit confused, that he certainly believed that the artist was Faroese. He read a little in the small exhibition leaflet and then he smiled with relief as he explained ".. but he lives in Finland". It seems that this anecdote still is relevant to a certain degree. It’s certainly related to the post colonial situation in which Faroese art currently is placed.
Often reviews of critics based abroad lend themselves to a condescending view of the art created on the Faroe Islands. The typical critical response of a Faroese exhibition abroad always seems to revolve around Faroese nature as being the basis of all existence. Similarly the art critic senses a special honesty and natural feeling in the Faroese works. Perhaps the Faroe Islanders themselves have been inclined to accept this romanticised and exoticised picture for commercial gain. And of course, the influence from nature is of vital importance to a small island nation situated in the middle of the ocean. But although nature and the weather have a profound effect on the lives of the people who live here, it’s important to remember that the Faroese society is a modern Nordic society. And when it comes to modern and technological developments we are operating on the same level as the countries around us. The influence by Globalization is inevitable and therefore Faroese art isn’t as homogenous as it used to be. This is of course also influenced by the fact, that many of the Faroese artists have chosen to reside abroad in for instance Denmark, England, Scotland, Iceland and in Finland, in Helsinki, where Hanni Bjartalíð has lived now for 21 years.
Confronted with Hanni Bjartalíðs monumental work, we can see, that the materialistic modesty is mixed with signs of megalomania and theatrical drama with references to Breueghels Tower of Babel or even Böcklins Isle of Death. It’s a grandiose and at the same time reckless and complex structure, which looks like a mixture between a house and a tower. It is constructed by countless small pieces of wood in white or in light colors that are partly covered with white paint, creating an overall frosty, dreamy feeling. The theme of hospitality is obvious as it is in so many works by Hanni Bjartalíð, for instance in the paintings depicting domestic life, but here it appears slightly subverted. If it is a house, it’s in fact a very inhospitable house because there are no entrances, so you can only interact with it as a viewer, as a voyeur. The structure appears irregular and random and on the inside the many rooms and staircases makes one think about the impossible architectures by Escher. But this is certainly not about impressive, sophisticated graphics. This is a strange, raw and highly original piece of woodwork with nothing inside of it, in which we cannot set our foot. It’s hard to decide whether it’s Faroese or Finnish, but what we do know is that it is heavy, serious, almost stern and it´s certainly very Nordic. The atmosphere seems isolated on the verge of being hostile, but only when you look at the entire structure. If you instead focus on the careful details in the structure, it appears much more welcoming and hospitable. If the wooden object is a house and the house is an island, maybe the island is a ship, which serves as a sort of a refuge for the artist as well as it did some thirty years ago when the little boy in Klaksvík started collecting things.