Guðmunda Andrésdóttir

In 1945, Guðmunda Andrésdóttir, then twenty-three years old, went to see Svavar Guðnason’s exhibition at Listamannaskálinn, where she set eyes on and was touched deeply by the artist’s abstract paintings, later putting her experience into these words:

“I was utterly befuddled when I saw that exhibition!… And then I got it into my head to start painting. It felt like a knockout. Yes, it was indeed a fine exhibition and I went to see it again and again.”[1]

Most people will probably be familiar with this kind of feeling, as if art pierces the heart itself. Whether one happens to be standing in front of a painting at an exhibition, listening to music, watching a film or reading a new book, it almost feels like opening one’s eyes at last, having kept them closed for a long time, finally looking upon the world and seeing everything in new light. Guðmunda herself was impacted in such a way at Svavar’s exhibition, as portrayed by her words, and she consequently dedicated her life to the creation of art.

Guðmunda belonged to the group of artists that worked in the style of geometric abstraction in Iceland, also participating in exhibitions with the Septem-Group, first in 1952, at the end of their former exhibition series, and then again in 1974-88. Guðmunda was notably the only woman who participated in the group’s exhibitions, but at the time, in the postwar period, artists, both men and women, went down the line of abstraction, seeking an international language that might express universal truth, common and comprehensible to people of all backgrounds, in a similar way to music.

This is the first solo exhibition of Guðmunda Andrésdóttir’s work in Hafnarborg, but the artworks on display here belong to the collection of the National Gallery of Iceland, the Reykjavík Art Museum, the University of Iceland, as well as works belonging to the ASÍ Art Museum and private collectors. Exhibiting a selection of different works, oil paintings, watercolours, pencil sketches and more, one can then glean how the artist plays with each medium, in her search for higher truth – through form, colour, or the combination of both.

In the artist’s work, one can thus encounter a few intriguing contradictions, between the poetic and the systematic, the sensitive and the calculated, calling into question the importance of sensing as opposed to understanding. There are, however, some things that demand no explanation, much like the melody that captures the audience by the sheer power of music, and Guðmunda’s work certainly strikes a similar chord, balancing the rational and the emotional, the feminine and the masculine. All in all, Guðmunda Andrésdóttir was a person of unique character and talent and her contribution to Icelandic art history and the local artist community remains significant to this day. Without doubt, she marched to the beat of her own drum, in both life and work, choosing to create her very own cadence.

The curators of the exhibition are Unnur Mjöll S. Leifsdóttir and Hólmar Hólm.

Guðmunda Andrésdóttir was born in Reykjavík on the 3rd of November 1922 and died on the 31st of August 2002. She graduated from Verzlunarskóli Íslands in 1941 and was an extramural student at Konstfack in Stockholm in 1947-48, as well as studying painting at Otte Sköld’s private school. She later moved to Paris to study art, at L’Académie de la Grande Chaumière and L’Académie Ranson, in 1951-53. Guðmunda was a leading artist in the field of abstract painting in Iceland, being the only woman among the members of the Septem-Group, for example. She had several private exhibitions during her career, notably in Kjarvalsstaðir in 1990, and participated in various group exhibitions both in Iceland and abroad. The National Gallery of Iceland, the Reykjavík Art Museum, The University of Iceland Art Collection, the ASÍ Art Museum, Gerðarsafn and Colby Art Museum in Maine, United States, all own artworks by Guðmunda, as well as many private collectors around the world.

[1] Einar Falur Ingólfsson, “Þetta er að verða kvennastarf”, Morgunblaðið, 16th of November 1996.