Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Now You See It, Now You Don't...*

I went today on my weekly pilgrimage to Reykjavik for a much needed breath of big city air. The initial plan was to visit my beloved sculpture garden and then go to the Museum of Photography. While the bus was passing Miklatun Park, a big sign “Free admission to Art Museum” caught my attention; on a whim I got off.

I wandered into Kjavrvalsstaðir and glanced into a big exhibition hall. “How strange," I thought, "There is nothing there besides white canvases”. A small exhibit of “Meditation on furniture” was on display in the corridor, so I started there. It was ok but not grabbing. I stepped into the big hall again. Suddenly, I noticed faces emerging from the white fog of the paintings. I was surrounded by smiling, blue-eyed blondes, most of them crowned with tiaras. All the portraits were exactly the same size; all had the white background; all used only the palest shades of grey, yellow and white. Standing alone in the midst of the fading faces, I felt utterly, completely fascinated, and a bit disturbed by their piercing stares. It was the “Blonde Miss World 1951“ exhibition featuring the portraits of all the winners of Miss World beauty pageants since the competition was launched in 1951. The artist, Birgir Snæbjörn Birgisson, is known for his style of painting on the white canvas with transparent colours and also for painting only blondes. His other work include a “Blonde Nurses Series” and “Blond Heads – Nordic Race”. I don’t know what is behind his “absence of colour” and loyalty to blondes – spiritual or racial pureness- but it is an interesting exhibition.

This is how the exhibition looks from the first glance, you can see the mystery unfold here.

*This is a quote from Mika Hannula, the curator of the exhibit.

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