Open Studios 22nd September 2011

As the month draws to a close and many of us pack or have already left the studio, I find myself a little reflective although I know I will see a lot of these people one last time on Friday in Reykjavík at how lucky I was that I had the opportunity to meet a diverse group of people from around the globe.

Last Thursday we held an Open Studio and the studio was cleaned and each person put out work either in progress or finished in their space. It was a fairly good turn out and interesting as well for us to meet some faces and to receive feedback on our work.

We had been unprepared last month for a visit on the Open Studio date and I wish that we could have been more in the state we were this month when a party from Baer came to visit. We managed as best as we could and I met one artist Emma Lindsay from Australia and then through an evening class pamphlet that had a name that  was clearly not Icelandic, I also met Vicki also from Australia who I saw on her blog knew Emma. Does that make sense?!

I was fortunate to be able to meet Vicki at her home and to hear the amazing change she has taken in moving to Iceland from Australia. I also learnt another Australian term…’sea change’. I seem to pick up Australian-isms (that’s for Emma who loves -isms’ ;)) each time I’m in Iceland. There’s ‘Servo’ from Joseph, that’s petrol station or gas station if you don’t know. My favourite still has to be ‘Doona’ from Christopher in Melbourne. I first heard ‘Doona’ via text message when I was asked to get his ‘doona’ from his room. My reply was ‘WTF is a doona?!’ It’s actually nothing more sinister than a duvet.

So I was very pleased when Vicki came to the Open Studios that evening to see what we’d been up to…

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The artists from September were:

Annika Bastacky | American | annikabastacky.wordpress.com
Ben Borden | American | myspace.com/solaryear
Dario Lazzaretto | Italian | dariolazzaretto.it
David Ertel | American | myspace.com/solaryear
Hideki Arichi | British | hidekiarichi.weebly.com
Ingeun Kim | South Korean | ingeunkim.com
Joseph Breikers | Australian | breikersacres.roxer.com
Lily Angotty | American | litlarottan.blogspot.com
Matthew Shelley | American | matthewgshelley.com
Mia Hochrein | German | miahochrein.de

There are more pictures at http://neslist.is/ from Ingeun.

Spákonufell

I have a new hobby, I like hiking up mountains! I will make it my new hobby to hike up a mountain wherever I go from here on in! In Skagaströnd overlooking the town is a mountain called Spákonufell.

A little history behind the name, Spákonufell which means Soothsayer’s Mountain is named after Þordís the soothsayer who built her farm by the slopes of the mountain. It is said that she hid her treasure in a chest high up on the mountain. However the treasure could only be found by a woman who had not been baptized in the name of the holy trinity or any of God’s other titles. According to the information in the municipal pamphlet the key to the chest would then be delivered by two ravens.

From my kitchen window I see the mountain and on the walk in to the studio or leaving the studio. Some days its shrouded by low cloud or the low clouds cast dark shadows upon it turning black. Throughout August it was one of those things that you say you’re going to do but never quite manage to do for whatever reason.

After 2 days in Skagaströnd, one of my first pictures of Spákonufell.

The rest are taken over the duration:

Last Wednesday 14th September, the weather was really fine and fearing that it may be the last of the fine weather I went up the mountain with Joseph. We got a lift to the local golf club which faces the North Route up the mountain. The technical data in the leaflet is as follows:

Distance: 3.3km to the top

Duration: 2 hours to the top

Landscape: Steep but fairly easy

Elevation: 570m

Highest Point: 639m

So off we set without the leaflet with the map in it…after a wrong turn at the base and 2o minutes wandering and muttering on the flat we found the start of the route and passed a water tank…

A rather odd sight…we carried on although it was evident who was the old man out of the two us as I found myself watching Joseph open up a sizeable gap on me yet he was still in sight.

He’d rest and wait so by the time I’d catch up, he’d had a good 10 minute rest!

It did start to get steeper at some points and there was still a little bit of snow up there from the previous 5 days. This is Joseph just before he started jumping up and down in the snow which apparently gave him an incredible sense of pleasure.

On we went at some points in the shade the ground was still a little frozen or a little slippery.

Getting closer to the top now…

The top is called Borgarhausinn its a huge mossy plain much larger than you imagine from just seeing the side from down below. Its a curious texture when you walk on it, yielding under your weight but springing back into place when you lift your foot.

We found the chest! Well alright not THE treasure chest but one with a guestbook where we both signed our names. I have numerous pictures from up at the top but somehow they don’t seem as good as being up there nor do they quite capture that sense of accomplishment that comes with walking up to the top.

Going back down should be easier…or that’s we thought. The trouble is the paths are not exactly marked in large, neon signs which you don’t really expect anyway but rather with small pegs or a touch or spray paint:

The only thing is while a rock with a touch of orange is kind of fun in a weird way, they get to be pretty hard to spot. Now if I thought Joseph was quick going up the mountain, he practically ran down the mountain. I had him in sight for a good amount of time but at one point as the terrain dipped down then back up into the sun, the last I saw was his silhouette go over the top. By the time I got there I couldn’t see him at all.

I saw these guys though:

I tried asking them if they had seen Joseph but they couldn’t hear me or were pretending to ignore me. I knew to head down and towards the sea but without any markers and a terrain that was increasingly unpredictable and with no sign of Joseph, I started to grumble to myself.

I had visions of Joseph drinking a coca cola at the golf club and was rehearsing the things I was going to berate him with. Like not even being a spot in the distance for me to follow and what kind of mate was he…etcetera and other choice words being with the letter ‘F’ amongst others.

As I came up over another ridge who should I see but Joseph wondering if he’d come back for me…I caught up to discover he’d also lost the path and had actually nodded off on a rock while waiting for me to appear. We walked back and made it back to where we’d started.

If anything it actually took us longer to get back down the mountain than to go up but was well worth it.

The next day I could still feel it in my legs and Joseph was hobbling around with a sore knee.

But we’re both glad we did go up to the top after saying it for a month.

Is going to up mountains going to be my new hobby? Nah, probably not.

I’ve lost count…

I have had so many cheese and ham toasted sandwiches for lunch in the past 50 odd days…

There have been variations…Cheese & Onion, Ham, cheese & onion, cheese, ham & mushroom. Even different types of ham…occasionally tuna.

Today…cheese & bacon!

Potentially the most boring blog post yet…I probably won’t have another toasted sandwich for oh let’s see…a good few months.

Roadtrip…Tuesday 30th August 2011 Part 3 – Part (ii)

Are you still in Iceland!?

The next stop on our drive around was Hverir where a couple of things strike you. The first is how bizarre it looks as moss covered or lava fielded or grassy areas give way to an area that at first glance looks brown like a desert, this was further reinforced by the ridiculously good weather we were having. After you’ve stopped and got out of the car in awe at the change in colour of the landscape, you’re struck immediately by this pungent smell of sulphur. Dotted around are blue-grey mud pools bubbling away either quite gently or more agressively, parts of the ground are stained yellow from sulphur. I will give credit here to the Rough Guide book as it explains briefly yet in an  about the steam vents and pools.

It really is quite something to hear bubbling mud pools, smell sulphur all around and then walk past steaming rock piles where you can feel the heat radiating out.

Some great pictures from Joseph Breikers below:

From there it was onwards to take a look at Viti a deep crater up in the hills around Krafla. Although at this point we had all sort of had a lull in energy and such a sensory overload that the crater was not exactly a let down but just a blur. The most memorable thing was one of the coach driver’s trying one of the most idiotic driving  maneuvers I  have been witness to.

While driving up the hill one of the coaches obviously on some tourist bus time clock of his own decided to try and overtake us. First he blows his horn then he tries to overtake but lacks the power to do so and then stalls his coach on a hill. Well we called him various names…numpty, muppet and other things that I shan’t repeat…the closest we got to road rage that day!

We didn’t even have the energy to walk around it…

I’d even shrunk by then!

We also saw this and tried to imagine the phonecall to the rental company:

After passing through Mr Wonka’s factory…

(Actually Leirbotn Power Station)

Then it was onto Dettifoss which is Europe’s most powerful waterfall, I don’t know how you measure such things but to get there we walked through yet another slightly weird but wonderful landscape.

As you near the waterfall you hear it before you see it. I may not know about waterfalls and how you go about measuring how powerful one is but what I do know is that it was one hell of a sound and really quite something to see water moving that fast.

The World’s weirdest boyband/rock group also took their album cover photo here:

I found a comfy seat there as well:

Also there further back from Dettifoss is Selfoss which is probably spectacular in its own right in a different way but we didn’t go and see it up close. Goðafoss had been a real treat and of the waterfalls we saw that day, I’d have to say Goðafoss was by far prettier but in terms of raw power and the awe that can come from that Dettifoss was something else.

I took over the driving from Detifoss and we headed through the Jökulsárgljúfur National Park. The views were spectacular at certain points but the road very bumpy and I have no pictures as I was driving. We were getting more and more aware of the time as it was already close to 5 p.m and so things like museums would no longer be open except perhaps in Húsavík where a couple of museums wouldn’t be closing until 7 p.m.

One of the recommendations we had received before we left was to visit a place called Ásbyrgi. Getting out of the National park took much longer than anticipated as the road was not paved and so we drove much more slowly that intended. The surrounding area at Ásbyrgi is marked only by a small petrol station and there is no inclination of what awaits you. taking the turn for a golf club of all things and then following the road past it till the road ends takes you to a birch tree wooded area in itself unusual since there are hardly any trees in Iceland. The reward that awaits you after a short walk into the tree lined area is a pond at the back of which rises a vertical black cliff face. It encompasses you in a large horseshoe shape. Legend has it that it is the hoofprint of Óðinn’s eight- legged steed although of course their is also the scientific, geologists explanation but I prefer the idea of an eight-legged horse.

My reaction really was ‘F***ing Hell’ when I first came into the clearing where the pond was.

As is often the case with nature the photos really do not do the place justice but it is stored in my memory as one that rewarded me with true amazement as you came round the wooded corner. While it may have been modified to be somewhat tourist friendly with its wooden decking at the water’s edge and with a path through the tress clearly marked, it was a sweet reward. Only two us actually saw the pond area as the others rested back in the car park.

With the clock ticking we had an hour or so to get to Húsavík we set off again. We never really ran into much traffic at all during our travels but if anything I have now learnt is that it sometimes takes longer than you it will because of the landscape influencing the turns in the road or even just the landscape causing you to stop and to want to take photographs like this:

Húsavík museums for 7p.m was becoming a physical impossibility since we were in a rental car and not a time machine. We did make it to Húsavík before 7p.m…5 to 7 that is. We drove past the penis museum and all along the main street not being particulary impressed but turned around at the petrol station and went back to find somewhere to park since we were hungry and getting a little cranky. Well we found the whale museum as well also sadly just closed. Descending the steps down onto the harbour front our opinion of Húsavík changed. With snow covered mountains facing the harbour and mixture of commercial boats as well the ones that take people out whale watching and smaller pleasure craft, its a charming harbour. ( A ‘charming harbour’!? Who do I think I am?! Cary Grant! 😉  )

We ate a quick and easy fish and chips dinner from quite literally a hole in the wall sitting outside and reflected briefly a long, busy yet fulfilling day seeing a lot of things.

The rest of the day was spent driving us back into the dark on the ring road back to Skagaströnd via Akureyri and onto the Ring Road. A couple of white knuckle, prise my fingers off the steering wheel moments along the way though. Thanks to the tractor driver with the trailer that had no lights on in the dark, road repairs in one section where there were no reflective markers or road lines just black tarmac(at least it was tarmac), to the driver who decided to tailgate me downhill on the mountain yet on the flat road couldn’t be bothered to overtake me, to Ingeun for suddenly waking up and taking a flash photograph of me driving in the car (wasn’t really that mad with you when you took the picture) Eventually I got us all back and I got to drive one more time at 630 am to return the car to Sauðárkrókur.

I’m not entirely sure why I decided to start this blog partly for myself to see and remember where I’ve been and what I’ve seen. Maybe to inform and hopefully amuse those that came with me. To share with friends and family and with strangers who don’t know me or haven’t yet visited Iceland just some of the sights.

While I’m still playing catch up with all the other things I’ve done since the roadtrip in the last 2 weeks which has actually been quite a lot when I sit down and think about it or look at it on here…I am also aware that I only have a little over 2 weeks left.



Roadtrip…Tuesday 30th August 2011 Part 3 – Part (i)

First things first, over the last couple of weeks I have been getting words of encouragement either from comments online or via retweets on Twitter or emails or verbally from people reading this blog to all of you a big thank you and so I will continue.

I had originally planned to try to write something everyday when I started this blog and to post a picture a day but somehow things don’t always go to plan for whatever reason. (Me getting to grips with wordpress) While it might be a couple of weeks since the trip I hope part three will be as interesting for the reader(s) as it was for us at the time.

After a reasonable kind of a sleep, I say this because we stayed in ‘sleeping bag’ accommodation which actually was pretty decent except I didn’t have  a sleeping bag. Essentially the bedrooms just hold 3 or 4 beds and that’s it. I used my bag as a pillow and a found blanket.

We all managed to get up at 0700 as agreed the night before and I handed driving duties over to another artist, Ingeun. When we’d hired the car the inclusion of a card entitling you to four free cups of coffee seemed great in principal. Armed with our ‘4 Cups 4 Free’ we set off the nearest petrol station. Even though the coffee came from a vending machine it was horrendous. The view at the back of the petrol/gas station was pretty spectacular though.

View from the back of the N1 Petrol Station, Akureyri.

I convinced the others that it would be in the best interest of our stomachs to go back to Akureyri to the bakery to get some breakfast. We were the first customers of the day and gratefully ate our assorted rolls and pastries before getting back into the car. We crossed the bridge from the centre and turned left after 10 minutes low and behold we passed the The Icelandic Folk and Outsider Art Museum  however it wasn’t open yet but we know where it is now!

Now speaking of strange things said to people or about people in Iceland, the same little boys who had decided that I worked for the mafia had decided that Ingeun had been in ‘The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift’. For a while there I think we’d started to believe he might have actually been in the film as we overshot the first place that we wanted to visit and had to go back on ourselves!

The first stop was Goðafoss which translates as waterfall of the Gods. The story behind the name goes as follows that when Iceland became officially Christian in 999 or 1000, the decision was made by Þorgeir Þorkelsson Ljósvetningagoði himself a pagan priest and chieftain. He threw the idols of his gods into the waterfall. If I have got that abbreviated account wrong then please correct me as I did use Wikipedia as a quick reference source. The weather had turned glorious since our early start, bright, sunny and warm. A preview of our day was to come as while we stopped and admired and were amazed by Goðafoss, a couple of coaches arrived with seemingly endless tourists.

The figures in the picture serve to give a sense of scale as well and I could look up the technical data and list it but there’s still a lot more to be written about and shown, so on we go.

The area is known for Lake Mývatn which translates as ‘Midge Lake’ and it lived up to its name as the swarms of tiny black flies follow you around when you walk outside and even get in the car with you. I did see two people with mesh over their faces but we didn’t go that far although flies up your nose is not fun.

Me with new friends…(If you zoom in on the picture you’ll see how many midges wre about…)

Rogerio’s solution.

Both pictures above by Ingeun Kim.

These views are possibly from Kálfaströnd although there now seems to be some uncertainity from myself and the others who went but as you can see we were incredibly lucky with the weather.

From there it was onto Dimmuborgir which I unfortunately renamed ‘Jimmy Borg’ in my head and now keep on forgetting the real name. Here is a selection of impressive lava formations. It would be very easy to spend a couple of hours wandering around the marked paths but with a schedule not quite as strict as the tourists who did up shortly after we arrived we stayed for almost an hour I guess. The tourists on the coach were like an army with a very strict time frame, there was no faffing around on their they took their path with no hesitation.

It took some time to get the shot

Why did it take so long you might be asking?

1) The coach was there.

2) Then these ‘goons’ (from L to R, Ingeun, Joseph & Rogerio) turned up:

As you can see the weather was now warm enough to go short sleeved! I have a feeling that the more time you spend looking at the rocks the more you’ll start to see things…I know I was.

Buddha?

Couple about to kiss?

Scary…

The day is still not done but I am also aware of my readers and rather than continue and lose your attention I’ll stop here and divide Part 3 into a sub part of (i) so Part 3 sub part (ii) concluding the trip will come later in the week.

Dramatically it might not be the most suspenseful, page turning, nerve shredding place to end but I hope you’ll tune in again.