'Ouroboros', 2007, 15 minutes, production stills
Having seen this exhibition, it's hard to shake the idea that Iceland is the home of determined hoydens whose relationship with their environment is visceral and passionate. Björk embodies this free spirit, and Gabríela Fridriksdóttir is a chip off the same block. Indeed the pair sometimes collaborates, Fridriksdóttir creating the album for Björk's 2002 greatest hits, while Björk was involved in Fridriksdóttir's film shown in the Icelandic pavilion in Venice in 2005. Since then, Fridriksdóttir has shown an installation in Zürich's Migros Museum, and this is her first solo show with Bob van Orsouw.
This show is entitled 'Ouroboros', after the ancient trope of a creature that devours its own tail. Central to the exhibition is a film of the same name, around which a series of drawings, paintings and sculptures are installed; whether these are catalysts or products of the film is unclear, and the film itself is cyclical; no beginning or end can be defined here. The drawings, in the same style as the aforementioned album cover, tell tales of organisms with functions that err between devouring and nurture - a many-eyed creature looks out over a womb fostering several creepy looking floating bodies. In comparison to the paintings, which are sensitively coloured and fragile, the stark black line drawings are akin to diagrams or anatomical illustrations of a grisly kind. Not that the paintings are easy viewing, rather that the delicate surfaces pull the viewer in by stealth, before they reveal uneasy scenes.
The film, meanwhile, plays on and on in a wooden sided shed held together by sisal laced through its sides. The film's backdrop is the stark landscape of Iceland. It is infused with the symbolic, a pot pourri of gestures both rational and bestial - a couple collect dried fish together, another pair at the bottom of a natural pit devours scraps of meat and eventually each other. Motifs recur to find new significance: a couple of figures emerge from a heap of coal-like dust and brush themselves off; the same black powder falls on a pile of flour between two people; while a mound sitting on a beach brings forth one head and many hands with which to sense the air around it. Everything the camera rests on is pregnant with meaning, making for a seductive and horrifying work.
Fridriksdóttir's visions are epic; she inhabits a world far removed from apparent civilization. Hers is a necessary dreaming of savage nature, of a coded, mythical universe in which humans are but small bodies responding to their environment, and where in the face of this place and its inhabitants' cruelty, regeneration and re-genesis continue.
Gabríela Fridriksdóttir: Ouroboros
Until 10 May
Galerie Bob van Orsouw