About the exhibition and the artist

Helgi Gíslason is best known for his bronze sculptures, which have been exhibited widely in Iceland and abroad. He has had several private shows, including three at Kjarvalsstadir, and participated in group exhibitions throughout Scandinavia and Germany. Among his many monumental public sculptures are prominent works at the Central Bank of Iceland and Fossvogur Church.

The current exhibition presents recent sculptural relief in the front gallery at Kjarvalsstaðir, where the sunrays flow freely through the large windows and play on the sculptural forms. The relief is related to drawing, which is a medium that Gíslason has used extensively, but also to sculpture. As Gíslason poins out, in his characteristically contemplative manner, sculptural relief “treads a narrow path between the two dimensional and the three dimensional.” The forms of a relief protrude and cast shadows, just as sculptural forms do. Artists have commonly used relief to give life to drawings by bringing them into the third dimension. The relief is then nurtured by the drawing. Gíslason goes further and makes the most of the relationship between these two media, drawing and sculpture. He makes the drawing shape the space of the picture. “In these works,” he has said, “I like to give the relief the drawing of the pencil. To me, graphite is a material just like plaster.”

When working in relief, Gíslason is true to the humanism that has guided his work for years. It is not the exterior appearance, not the known and common reality that he aims for. Rather, it is the interior relation between forms and emotions that he captures, often by giving the forms movement and independent life. The artist himself has indicated how he sees the role of the environment in his work and how he makes it express individual existence.

      “Man is neither large nor small in himself; he is always a part 
       of a whole. His largeness or smallness is determined by the scale
       of his physical environment. I contemplate the paradox that man’s
       presence is strongest in his absence; that his
       existence is marked beyond all by his thinking and actions.
       You find the figure in his traces and in the social framework.”

Helgi Gíslason was born in 1947. He studied at the Icelandic College of Arts and Crafts from 1965 to 1970 and at the Valand University of Art in Gothenburg, Sweden, from 1971 to 1976.

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