Karólína Lárusdóttir: Wondrous Happenings at Sarah Wiseman Gallery
40-41 S Parade
Oxford OX2 7JL
Granddaughter to the strongman of a travelling circus and owner of Reykjavik’s first grand hotel, Karólína Lárusdóttir ‘s distinctive work is greatly inspired by her Icelandic upbringing
Sarah Wiseman Gallery is proud to present Wondrous Happenings , a rare chance to see works by the renowned Icelandic artist Karólína Lárusdóttir as we celebrate her 75th birthday. ‘Wondrous Happenings’ will be the first solo exhibition of Karólína ‘s work in nine years.
Born and raised in Iceland, Karólína Lárusdóttir moved to Oxford to study at the prestigious Ruskin School of Art at Oxford University, graduating in 1967. Despite remaining in the UK for many years, Karólína admits, “everything in my work is to do with Iceland: the landscape, the people, the way I remember life as a child”.
In this exhibition of etchings, the artist shares strange yet engaging scenes that convey her childhood impressions of a country that remains faithful to ancient customs and traditions to this day. It is said that many Icelanders regard self-sufficiency and independence as important personal qualities to have. Coupled with a national pride in their Viking heritage and for many, a belief in a ‘hidden people,’ Iceland’s traditions are a curious blend of no-nonsense stoicism, with the indubitable acceptance of the existence of other forces.
As the granddaughter to a strongman of a travelling circus and owner of Hotel Borg, Reykjavik’s first grand hotel, Karólína Lárusdóttir’s work is greatly inspired by her unusual Icelandic upbringing. With regular visits to the Hotel, she was witness to many gatherings and social encounters. Hotel Borg was at one time central to Reykjavik’s social calendar, where society parties and dinners took place. Much of the social custom and their peculiarities are typical subject matter for Lárusdóttir’s etchings; her imagery is often populated by chefs and chambermaids, customers taking tea or dancing, referencing characters frequenting the hotel. Faces are unsmiling yet expressive and intense, relating to one another as if in tacit understanding. “There’s nothing worse than seeing a picture of a smiling person”, says Larusdottir, “there&rsquo! ;s always more going on than you think”. Despite drawing on a bank of her personal memories and imagination, she does not want the etchings to become too sentimental.
Karólína’s work is underpinned by the other-worldly and mystic elements of Icelandic culture. Using wry humour, she enhances the surreal and timeless qualities of different happenings, depicting stern-looking angels and other mysterious characters that appear in her painterly and colourful etchings.
Karólína Lárusdóttir’s quietly captivating works are held in collections around the world, including the Vatican Collection, Rome, the Royal Collection of HRH Queen Elizabeth II, the British Museum and the Iceland National Collection in Reykjavik.
‘Wondrous Happenings’ will be Karólína Lárusdóttir’s second solo exhibition with Sarah Wiseman Gallery, having exhibited with the gallery in 2004. Her last solo exhibition at The Contemporary Art Gallery in Reykjavik in 2010.