Bjargey Ólafsdóttir-studio visit
Following a visit in open studio at the Artist Residency Program
Nordic Guest Studio in Malongen, Stockholm
I’ve met with Bjargey at her open-studio/exhibition at the NKF. She was staying at the Artist Residency Program for three weeks In June-July at the Nordic Guest Studio in Malongen, Stockholm. Nordiska Konstförbundet (The Nordic Art Association/NKF) is an organisation of visual artists in the Nordic countries aiming to create networks.
I have been there once before, in winter. It was a public conversation held as part of the Curatorial Residency in Stockholm (CRIS) with Lorenzo Sandoval, an Italian curator. The NKF building is in a courtyard in Nytorget in Södermalm (the southern island) The talk took place in the living room and it was 5 or 6 people there. I was invited to this by Maja Ciric, an Independent curator from Belgrade that I met a few years ago and was in Stockholm at the time. It was an elite meeting no doubt about it. I only listened in this gathering even though I had a lot to say. The group went to have drinks and a late dinner in Pelikan (a well known Swedish restaurant bar in Södermalm) but Maja and I didn’t join, I wanted to chat with her a bit longer, catch a bus and go home. It’s summer, I saw there was an exhibit there, a quick google search of the Artist found a giant polar bear drawing (that could only to be viewed from a helicopter or a satellite) she made on the glacier Langjökull in Iceland by using eco red ink- It looked like blood.
I get nervous around new people even if they are artists so my girlfriend Inbar and her friend Anna from work tagged along... I met my good friend Didem and a purple haired girl named Piper at the entrance. They were there for the studio thing too, Didem works in Tensta Konsthall and Piper is doing a curator residency there. Anna and Inbar went in and out pretty quick and went to sit in the park. The studio was full of drawings. A huge working desk and four big walls were all covered with drawings on different kinds of paper and sizes, it was pretty chaotic. Drawings stating this imagery are not scratches were sometimes with writings in Scandinavian languages and English seems to play as a stream of consciousness. Bjargey is using mostly Ink markers, watercolors and material that can be easily bought in a hobby shop like glossy paper and glitter. Portraits of unspecific women and men, a small dog “shitting”, Kr =crowns (all Scandinavian money is called crowns), post-it notes with some words and half stories, characters with empty comics bubbles. A large meter by meter white paper stuck to the wall with some yellow tape, there were three floating heads of guys with sunglasses like a fictional rock band. A loose drawing of a cat made of some free lines taking out most of the frame while “inside” of it sits this tiny woman (or perhaps it’s a huge cat and a regular size woman?).
Most of the text seems to be quoted from everyday talk and part is attaching two odd words together, by that making an intriguing combination- YES intertwined with NO, Anxiety written in empty block letters with a permanent black marker on a golden glossy plastic paper, Trevligt (lovely) written in a faded pink on pink hanging beneath it where the text is almost transparent like a whisper.
Two androgynous figures with short hair are hanging in the air with eyes closed, one laying the head on another's shoulder, they are earless. Her drawing style is not naive but free from an illustration “style”. The situational imagery is every day surreal yet fun like childlike like a teen scribbling in notebooks. Her use of art supplies is also from that world, graffiti white markers and coloured pencils mixed with some special pro only for artists stuff like Japanese calligraphy brushes and such.
I'm all confused, Didem asks me to come and listen to the sound piece with them I’m going to the living room we take off our shoes and lay on the sofa gathering around a small computer speaker connected to a MacBook Pro. There is a blond 5-year-old boy sleeping on one of the armchairs, I can only see his head of hair, he’s sound asleep. The speaker speaks - It’s Bjargey and she's talking with a soft voice- you kind of need to get close in order to hear anything at all. She’s telling a story about some sort of travel to shoot a toothpaste ad - It feels so unconnected and wild but not like a lie so if it’s true it must be a dream or a few dreams connected together with some white lies... I’m thinking. She sings a melody with a perfect pitch - so to make a happy end to a confusing tale. We are leaving but before we leave there is a photo-op and I offer to take it myself, but Didem doesn’t let me get away. I feel uncomfortable, I don't say anything but Thank you and leave.
At night I can’t sleep so I send a friend request to Bjargey, then I realize I may not even have introduced myself so I also write a message the next day. “Hello Bjargey, this is Tal Gilad I met you in your open studio yesterday along with Didem and Piper...I'm an independent curator and would like to have a quick studio visit with you before you leave…” She said she can do 15:00 which is perfect for me and It's a nice bright day so cycle all the way from Vasastan to Söder and park my bike by the door. The two empty beer bottles Inbar and Anna left stayed there from yesterday, It’s early so I go and buy some cigarettes at the 7 Eleven on the way back I see her. We meet near the entrance and another girl is greeting her saying she just popped by spontaneously. I know who she is, she’s the Iranian curator, Azar Mahmoudian who is now also in residency in Tensta, she looks nice. I like her top. I tell her I’m friends with Didem and so she warms up to me. So we will need to share this studio meeting but I don’t mind.
Bjargey offers us some box wine. Automatically I say I don’t drink and Bjargey said the same at the same time. As an alternative, she offers us some Rå blueberry drink. I’ve seen this bottle before in eco pharmacies it's about 300 blueberries per bottle she says. It looks like wine, I love it. We pace slowly around the gallery looking. There is a special tempo for gallery pacing I think, slow motion almost, It’s so quiet and I’m giving everything a second look, I still think it is a bit messy, yet I'm intrigued and curious about it. I wonder if my observations are right or not, and in most of them, I'm on the money, the portraits are unspecific people, the drawings are sometimes a sketch that leads to another work in another medium. She repeats that they are not conceptual but intuitive. In my mind this is also a concept: an intuitive journey. She tells that: once upon a time she met a medium in Buenos Aires that fell into a trance and she told her that in her former life she had been a nomad in Siberia and that the purpose of the life that she is living now is to draw and to sing. She was certain that if she will do just that: to draw and to sing, then she will make other people happy as well as being a content human being. Before we were talking about residencies - and how she decided to take the time and work and not just hang out like some do. I immediately tell her I don’t believe in wasting time. I mean there is no such thing. This may sound stupid but I don’t care I think it’s true or maybe my notion of waste is different. I’m beginning to rearrange a series of drawings made on small scale square MDF plaques by color so it will look good. I use two of the plaques to support each other like a stand, I get no reaction so I stop.
I noticed this large coin that said 10 Kr on it and had some fish impressed on it, I assumed it was Icelandic I know Norwegian and Danish coins have holes in the middle of them. I just wanted a piece of paper and pencil to get an imprint she said I can keep it - it’s not a lot of money. We talked a little about a cash-free future in Sweden that functions almost without cash and recently renewed the bills and coins again for the second time since I moved here and how it's about the way for the government to track and control people and eliminate all black market illegal activities. The other curator picked up a diamond shaped piece of glass that was near the boombox by the window and began twirling it against the wall, the sunlight from the window went through it created rainbow . shaded rectangle shapes in form of a circle that began to float around the fictional band Three floating heads piece. I mumbled something about how ignorance is bliss because I don't know how this happens so it still looks like magic.
One of the heads had dark sunglasses. This looked like that Sonic Youth cover. I didn't want to say it, but we all knew it. The other head was covered with round shapes she kept repeating in different locations. I thought it was smoke, maybe because I smoke, smoke is one of those things that are tricky to interpret with drawing. It's elusive form can be wavy lines or transparent faded clouds, Bjargey is pointing to these amorphous rings within ring almost like corals... have you heard the great barrier reef is dead? I said oh yes It’s so terrible... The other curator went to listen to the sound piece so I went outside for a cigarette. I told Bjargey I need to make a phone call and after it, I might get going. I came back in and went back out again so to not disturb the sound so she came with. I told her I like the sound piece and she said she needs to edit it with a sound geek (: I asked about Iceland and her studio at home, we talked about politics in Iceland - the last I knew the people basically threw the government out after the pots and pans revolution due to the 2008 economic crisis that hit Iceland hard, probably because of its size, so the global wave of right-wing government hasn't skipped Iceland and a conservative government is in office again*. Thank god we haven't talked about Israel and kept things on the general the world sucks kind of level. I’m so tired of stating my views without being bullied into apologising for my own existence. We go back inside and I gather my things and we say we’ll stay in touch by mail she gave me this brochure thing with some writings and photos I offer to send her some of my writings and saying something like maybe we can work together in the future. I feel like I should leave now I tell her to say bye to other curator and cycle to meet my friend Doug by the fish-stand near Slussen.
*A week ago the green left party in Iceland was formed and is now in office with the right wing party in “an absurd experiment”.
It’s the beginning of December and I’m in Dublin, with my sister Adi, her partner Andy and young baby Ellie, just hanging out (;. At night I get a message from Bjargey, she’s in Dyrhólaey, on the South coast of Iceland, she added a short video of the rocky shore with some volcanic mountains. It's gray and beautiful, She told me there’s an exhibition in Ísafjörður featuring the works she did in the residency in Stockholm and It’s time to continue my text...
I see the photos from the exhibition space that seems to be a more edited version of what I’ve seen in the studio, a little fewer drawings, favorites perhaps? But a representative collection of the work done there nonetheless. I want to write a smart closing argument so I give it a go:
A mission for fulfilling one's cosmic life mission is an open artist intent, subjectivity celebrated, adventure and free will to use the artist as a vessel for interpretation of a personal take in specific time and place juxtaposed back to the home base even though the nomad has no home.