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Queen of Hearts  | Sóley Ragnarsdóttir



Heiðar Kári Rannversson

The exhibition Queen of Hearts presents the fascinating conceptual- and material world of artist Sóley Ragnarsdóttir. Here, hyper-decorative paintings and sculptures of various shapes and sizes, beautifully painted wall surfaces and custom-designed wallpaper as well as display tables with a unique collection of napkins, create a painterly installation.

The exhibition is a collaboration between Gerðarsafn – Kópavogur Art Museum and Augustiana Kunstpark & Kunsthal in southern Jutland, Denmark. The destinations mark two important points in the artist’s life; she was born in Iceland but has lived in Denmark from a young age and grew up in the region where the second part of the exhibition will take place.

Today, Ragnarsdóttir lives and works in a small town in Thy, northwestern Jutland, close to the North Sea. The place and specifically the beach, provide her with important inspiration for her artistic practice, and there she collects various objects to use in her works, both natural and man-made. Shells, pearls, and amber, but also polished shards of glass, plastic pellets and other rubbish that has been floating in the sea for a long time, find their way into the artist’s bag during her regular walks along the coastline. In the studio, she then effectively uses the material in paintings and sculptures, bringing the works to life.

Ragnarsdóttir’s works are not paintings in the traditional sense, but float on the border between two-dimensional and three-dimensional form. Their surface is not canvas either, but napkins hardened with epoxy and acrylic paint. One could talk about expanded painting here, but the works are also strongly influenced by the Pattern & Decoration movement, active in the United States in the 1970s but is little known in Iceland. The artists of the movement, mostly women, upheld craft traditions and embraced the decorative as an artistic counterpoint to the masculine orthodoxy of modernist art.

The napkins, which are the formal basis of the works, also form the conceptual framework of the exhibition. They have been systematically collected by Ragnarsdóttir’s mother and grandmother since the middle of the last century, both in Iceland and in Denmark, and now the artist has continued the collection but given the napkins a new artistic meaning. In the hands of Sóley, these modest objects, which, like the trash on the beach, are characteristic of the “disposable” culture of modern society, become expressive and decorative works. The napkins are also material remains of female culture of the past and hold memories of togetherness, care, and affection.

In Ragnarsdóttir’s work, one can find both feminist and ecological aspects, which together form multi-layered practice. In the artist’s mind, collecting and creating thus becomes a matter of inheritance, both in the present and the future, and how we can care for things and places with which we form personal bonds throughout our lives. But Ragnarsdóttir’s work is also a reaction to the enormous polluting effects that humans have on their environment and nature, not least on the sea and the coastal areas.

​The exhibition is a timely call to stop in the present and look down into sand – and forget oneself in the details and decorations.

Queen of Hearts is Sóley Ragnarsdóttir’s first solo exhibition in Iceland. Here, the local audience is given a unique opportunity to see a selection of works by this up-and-coming artist. After the exhibition at Gerðarsafn, the works will travel back to Denmark, where the second part of the exhibition opens in Augustiana Kunstpark & Kunsthal, Sønderborg later that year (17.8– 27.10.2024).

The exhibition is supported by The Icelandic Visual Arts Fund, The Danish Arts Fund and Knud Højgaards Fond.

Sóley Ragnarsdóttir

Sóley Ragnarsdóttir (b. 1991) is a Danish-Icelandic artist living in Stenbjerg, Thy in Denmark. She graduated as Meisterschülerin from Städelschule in Frankfurt, Germany in 2019 under the supervision of Amy Sillman,Monika Baer and Nikolas Gambaroff. In recent years, Ragnarsdóttir has received well-deserved attention in the Danish and international art scene and participated in numerous group exhibitions. She has also held several solo exhibitions, including Dot, dot, dot (2021) at Gallery Jean-Claude Maier, Frankfurt, Organizing Principles (2021) at O–Overgaden and Cherrystone (2022) at Formation Gallery, Copenhagen. In 2023, she presented the work More Love Hours at the international music festival Roskilde Festival. Ragnarsdóttir’s work is in private collections and in the collection of The Danish Arts Fund.

H.K. Rannversson

H.K. Rannversson (b. 1982) is a writer and independent curator based in Reykjavik. He was Curator and Head of Exhibitions at North Atlantic House in Copenhagen from 2018-2022, and Head of Public Programs at the Reykjavik Art Museum from 2013-16. Over the past ten years, Rannversson has carried out numerous research and exhibition projects for Icelandic and international art institutions, including the Living Art Museum, Hafnarborg – Centre of Culture and Fine Art, National Gallery of Iceland, and the Icelandic Art Center. He has also lectured regularly at the University of Iceland and Iceland University of the Arts. Rannversson received a MA in artistic research from the University of Amsterdam in 2012, after studying BA in art history and theory at the University of Iceland and architecture at the Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen.

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