On 7th December I arrived in the remote village of Stoovarfjorour, East Fjords of Iceland at the old fish factory to start a three-week artist residency. There was a call out to the villagers on the day that I was arrived to see if anyone could pick me up from the airport two hours away. It is remote. I was met by an Icelandic writer who was staying in the neighbouring village looking after his father’s horses. He came to collect me with the promise that he would be rewarded with a good meal at the end of his long round trip.
While here I plan to host a series of coffee mornings where participants will be invited to share stories relating to Icelandic death rites and ceremonies. The project develops current research with the group Café Morte (pop up research group) looking at the way in which visual culture represents death and dying, mourning and grieving through art, dreams, desires, imagery and poetry. This is my plan. Currently my interpreter is stuck in snow in Reykjavik where all flights have been cancelled due to the bad weather, so there is a certain amount of having to re-think and work around the weather conditions here.
The village sits in one of Iceland’s Eastern Fjords with mountains covered in snow rising up on each side. It has a population of 150 people that rely heavily on fishing to make a living. The residency space is in an old fish factory; a huge rambling building that is an Aladdin’s cave of potential materials. It is full of old bits of machinery and junk that have been saved and salvaged stored in vast warehouse spaces in the factory. Part of the building has been renovated and has a concert hall where the villagers get together and local bands play. This is also where Café Morte coffee morning will take place. I have the ingredients to bake some cheese scones, which I am hoping will entice the community to take part.
The studio is purpose built, warm and if I stand on tip toe can just glimpse a view of the mountains. The mornings are dark. I am getting to really enjoy the sunrise at 10.33 am, the changing light and how it falls on the snow at the top of the mountain. I have been here for three days drawing and gathering information from my surroundings that will be incorporated into a new body of work. A tin shack, black pools of water, dust storms and containers are emerging to form the beginnings of a new symbolic language explored through drawing. I am finding it interesting to see how I map my imagined Iceland onto the real. I hope to then use film, sound and narrative from the Café Morte session to create an installation in one of the fish factory warehouses.
One thing I can be sure of this year is a white Christmas.