Árni Rúnar Sverrisson: Ferðasaga

Árni Rúnar (b. 1957) studied art at the Icelandic College of Art and Craft and the Reykjavík Art School. He has exhibited extensively since he handed his first solo show in Reykjavík in 1989. In 1999 he traveled to Sicily where he worked on his art but for the most part, he has worked and exhibited in Iceland where he has had more than a dozen solo shows in addition to taking part in collective exhibitions and competitions. 

Árni Rúnar began to exhibit his paintings more than three decades ago. Early on, he developed a highly individual approach which was characterized by the unfettered flow of vibrant colors across the canvas. Sometimes it was as if the paintings were about to explode with color and the brushstrokes meandered and mingled until the whole painting seemed to writhe with their force. Though these were not landscapes, nature was somehow very much present in his paintings – perhaps primarily in the energy they expressed. The painters´ battle with his brushes and colors was such that the forces of nature seemed to speak through him. Sometimes this energy was bound in stricter compositions but more often than not flowed across the entire canvas and sometimes the canvas seemed hardly able to contain it so that the painting seemed to be but a part of some much larger picture. 

In later years, Árni Rúnar´s paintings have developed and changed significantly. The natural world is even more clearly present here than in the earlier paintings but in a very different way. The color palette is narrower and natural colors dominate. The paintings recreate in surprisingly realistic detail the lichens that grow on the surface of rocks and cliffs in the landscape and which we cannot see clearly until we come very close or even look at the stones through a magnifying glass. The paintings still flow across the entire canvas with little concern for centered composition or dominant forms. His approach is more disciplined and yet a great deal more complicated and accomplished. Instead of allowing the brushstrokes to run about the canvas he now builds his paintings layer by layer, emphasizing the texture of the surface and the patterns that emerge in it. He also uses different chemicals and paints to achieve a range of effects so that some forms become almost transparent while others sit opaquely in the foreground and some even develop a wrinkled texture of their own as they dry. Here it is not the unfettered energy and the broad strokes of the landscape that we see but its surface is seen up close. These paintings are strangely engaging and it is easy to lose oneself in his large canvases and let one gaze sink deeper and deeper into the complex, patterned surfaces. The paintings transport the viewer from his normal perspective on the landscape into the microcosm of the rocks surface and the hardy life that flourishes on their windblown and forst-cracked surface. There we see the connection between the largest and the smallest features and can wonder at complexities of the natural world which reflects both structure and chaos wherever we look - even in the rocks under our feet.