Gabríela Fríðriksdóttir (b. 1971) lives and works in Reykjavík. She graduated from the Icelandic College of Art and Crafts in 1997, and in a short time she has come to be a prominent figure within the contemporary Icelandic art scene. Working in various media—sculpture, drawing, painting, sound sculpture and music—her work is strongly characterized by what has come to be called the “sweetness of horror.” Gabríela examines the chaos and excesses of society while playing on the borders of dreams and reality, drawing from a fantastic mythology of her own creation. In 2005, Gabríela was Iceland’s representative at the Venice Biennale.
Most of her work reminded me of how terrified I felt the first time I watched The Goonies. Her performance and film art usually contains actors, wrapped in gauze or covered in some type of foreign substance, crawling around on the ground in pain.
She established herself as an integral part of a young Icelandic generation of artists who experimented with all kinds of genres and media. This truth takes form in Gabriela Friðriksdóttir’s numerous collaborations with musicians, designers, and theater makers. For instance, she worked together with both the French design office M/M (Paris).
The joy she takes in experimenting is expressed first and foremost in the great variety of media she uses, all of which are connected by a set of signs, forms, and meanings and which are characterized by a combination of contrasting materials.
In her video works, Friðriksdóttir tests the limits of human existence. Mysterious dream images mirror her subconsciousness. The works switch between homages to Norse legends and pop culture references. The influence of horror movies, heavy metal, elements of sexual psychology, associations of spiritual exercises, and things past and present are most prevalent in her video works.
Her drawings not only represent the starting point for exploring other media (painting, sculpture and film), it combines with these to a pictorial vocabulary that uses narrative material while simultaneously disallowing any kind of linear storyline. The basic emotions of fear and isolation that constitute the human psyche, as well as the question of the origin and meaning of existence, are set in the context of Nordic sagas and creational myths.
The film title “Ouroboros” takes up the cross-cultural symbol of the primal snake swallowing his tail. This infinite return of death and rebirth embodied by the snake is what she has called: “the eternal cycle of renewal, the creation out of destruction.”
Honestly, it’s quite simple: SHE WORKED WITH BJÖRK!
Outside of her contributions in the art world, she is known for her collaboration with the Icelandic creative Björk. The two have collaborated on Björk’s 2002 CD box set Family Tree and on the 2005 video for Björk’s song “Where is the Line” from the album Medúlla.
Furthermore, Gabriela is one of the only Icelandic artists who refuses to shy away from an unknown medium. Leading the future generations of Icelandic creatives, she acts as a role model by experimenting with sculpture, film, installation, photography and performance art.
If you are traveling in Iceland while one of her exhibitions is open, drop everything and go!
Her Best Exhibition
Scene Shifts – a meeting between art and theater. This exhibition was a unique collaboration with Dramaten & (Royal Dramatic Theatre) and joined leading international artists with Sweden’s best-known actors.
Taking place over three intense months, the exhibition continuously gave rise to new works and performances.
The exhibition aimed to be a space that enabled an encounter, as could only be arranged by such a multi-faced artist as Gabriela, between contemporary art and theater. Gabriela’s contribution to this project came in the form of a dreamy dance performance.
Gabriela was one of two Icelandic artists involved in the fourteen-artist project, the other being Ragnar Kjartansson, who represented Iceland in the Venice Biennale of 2009.
This unorthodox combination of multiple mediums could only be described as theater intersecting with musical film, and cutting-edge contemporary dance performances, hand in hand with Shakespeare.
Her Most Recent Exhibition
Crepusculum features a large pod-like dome with an opening on each side abstract video images are projected onto sand piles spilling out from one side of the structure, and a video on a large screen shows the pod in the middle of a wind-blown desert, the centerpiece of some sci-fi fantasy.
Gabriela’s piece swept the show, and I, along with her many other American fans, are praying it gets exhibited again, and that this time, it’s somewhere closer to the USA!