Without Dreams All Is Dead

Sara Gunnarsdóttir and Una Lorenzen

The drawing is the starting point of All is dead without dreams, an exhibition by Sara Gunnarsdóttir and Una Lorenzen. The exhibition derives its name from a poem by Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness, and is an allusion to the world of imagination an artist possesses and seeks their inspiration in.

Animation is based in the idea of a transforming drawing. The viewer perceives movement on the picture plane and sees something happening, a sequence of events or transition. The viewer peers into another world with its own time: a beginning and an end. In their exhibition, Sara and Una work use the animation work they are engaged in on a daily basis as a foundation, and look to drawing as their source and starting point.

In her embroidery pieces, Sara carries drawing into another medium, from pen on paper to thread in cloth. As well as using thread to delineate the subject and fill it out with patches of colour, Sara uses acrylic in a painterly and expressive manner, especially in the background of her pieces.

Sara mediates her feelings through her drawings, telling stories and bringing dreams to life. Her embroidery and sketches possess a certain lyricism — a world captured in a single frozen moment. Nature places a vital role in her pieces: both mother nature, where Sara draws inspiration from the Icelandic natural environment, and, no less importantly, human nature.

On the other hand, Una works with the transparency of drawing, where each animation takes place on one large sheet of paper. The drawing is slowly transformed by erasing, massaging and adding, and a photograph is taken of each edit. Viewers see the picture come to life as it is created. Una draws these images in charcoal and coloured dry pastels, which imbue the visual world with great texture and depth. Traces of the previous image can be seen in the next, since each new image is drawn over another. At the end of each animation, one great big drawing is left which has undergone a constant transformation.

Una’s animation series is called Tall Tales, and in each short Una works focuses on an everyday moment from someone’s life—a cup of coffee on a Sunday, or an embrace between friends—quotidian moments which are then reshaped, or dissolve into an abstract and metaphysical visual world, filled with both humour and heartache.

Sara and Una’s exhibition deals with what happens outside of reality. The artists create worlds around selected moments and ideas, playing with abstract and sometimes surreal transfigurations or distortions. As a result of this process, dreams come to life in both of their works. Life without dreams is not worth living, as Laxness says in the last verse of his eponymous poem:

Bliss is to drift off and slowly
into a world of dreams float.
All is dead without dreams
and the world full of woe.


Sara Gunnarsdóttir is born and raised in Hafnarfjörður, Iceland. She graduated from CalArts in the
spring of 2012 with her documentary short The Pirate of Love, that was nominated for
student Academy Awards. Sara works as an independent animator and director. Her work has been shown in festivals like Berlinalen, Sundance, Tribeca Film Festival, Stockfish Film Festival, RIFF, Nordisk Panorama and more.

Since then her work include animation and original artwork for
a feature film, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, directed by Marielle Heller. That film
premiered at Sundance Film Festival and went on to win The Grand Prix of the
Generation 14plus International Jury at Berlinalen. Sara is currently working with director
Amy Berg on a documentary series for HBO.

Una Lorenzen is an Icelandic filmmaker who in recent years has worked on and directed award
winning documentaries, doing concept development, design and animation. Using mixed media
techniques she creates music videos and films that have traveled to festivals such as SXSW,
MOMA (NYC), New Museum NYC, Fantasia (Montreal), Tricky Women (Vienna), Nordisk Panorama
(Sweden), and screened on Artforum online. Una majored in Graphic Design, and completed an
MFA – Experimental Animation at CalArt