current Exhibition
 

Kristján Steingrímur
From Near and Afar

 

January 21 – February 25, 2023

 
The Impact of the Anthropocene on the Colours of the Earth

Stone grey, ochre yellow, rust red – the geological materials in Kristján Steingrímur’s paintings remind us that artists have experimented with clay and minerals since the dawn of time. The earliest cave painters used ochre, umber, sienna, manganese and kaolin. They crushed stones and mixed soil with grease and other organic binding agents to attach the colours to the surface. Kristján mixes his colours using similar methods. When they appear, they assume a symbolic role and an aesthetic meaning, as Kristján’s paintings refer to specific places and names that have a particular glow, even magic, in the minds of viewers: Námaskarð, Seyðishólar, Sólheimajökull, Rauðisandur, Bethlehem, Carmel, Omaha Beach, Sienna and Bordeaux.

But although the colours he creates from these minerals are based on a long process that begins with sampling, often in exotic locations, his research does not revolve around travel, geology or chemistry, although they could be linked to topography or mapping, even a kind of search for the DNA of the regions he visits. Is it possible that the soil he collects in these different places has biological markers? The yellow sands of Omaha Beach still show the signs of the devastating deciding battle that took place there in World War II, but what secrets does the Bethlehem soil hold?

However, this subjective mapping of soil is not only about points and place names on a map, because Kristján also grinds meteorite samples to create colours from another world that nevertheless resemble ours. The Anthropocene, or the “human epoch”, is a brief period, both in a geological sense and compared to the time it took for the solar system to evolve. The planet Earth is part of a greater whole, and meteorites, micrometeoroids and other space objects have the same compounds, rocks and metals as the rocks that form on Earth. Thus, the history of Man, cosmology and the biosphere overlap in Kristján’s works. He draws attention to the eternal cycle of the materials and invites viewers to reconsider their binary perspective, as a consideration of the Earth’s colours from a more-than-human perspective could give rise to a study of colours that is not based on Man’s perception and his cultural interpretation of the semiotics of colour. Would this colour science be based on the agency of physical reality or perhaps a kind of deep ecology; one that is based on the assumption that Man is part of a larger ecosystem, equal to other beings, living and inanimate, and therefore has no right to have this impact on the biosphere? In this way, Kristján Steingrímur’s experiments raise questions about the human-centered colour theory of the arts and their Romantic systems of classification.

Æsa Sigurjónsdóttir