The Subtle Art of Haraldur Jónsson
His sound installations also reflect a concern with local or even historical subjects, though their presentation is characteristically sparse. Visitors to an exhibition on the outskirts of Reykjavík a few years ago were suddenly surprised by the sound of a child crying, apparently coming from the rocks piled up along the coast. This was Haraldur’s haunting reference to the fact that in former times unwanted children were sometimes left out in lonely places to die of exposure – a complicate and painful part of the Icelanders’ tragic history. Other sound installations have explored the terms we sue to refer to our feelings or the words in Icelandic that immigrants from abroad find most characteristically Icelandic.
In his drawings, photographs and sculptures, Haraldur seeks out the vague thoughts and associations that escape our taxonomies, the lines that never quite meet and the thoughts that have no obvious expression. Sometimes the result conveys a wry humour, for example in the Arctic Fruits series of photographs which shows Icelandic gardens in winter, the trees laden with Christmas lights in lieu of the fruit that people enjoy in warmer climes. Haraldur works in many media but his artwork always has the look of having grown from the germ of an idea, almost without any intervention on the artist’s part. There is nothing there that is extraneous to the idea of the work but, in contrast to most minimalist art, the ideas remain free to meander and branch into new thoughts in the viewer’s mind.