Helgi Hjaltalín Eyjólfsson and Pétur Örn Friðriksson

Welcome to the opening reception of the exhibition Aim XV in Kópavogur Art Museum-Gerðarsafn on Saturday October 11th at 3 p.m. 

Aim is a collaboration project of Helgi Hjaltalín Eyjólfsson and Pétur Örn Friðriksson that started with an exhibition at Gallery Hlemmur in 2000 and since then they have developed the project, using existing objects and scenes from previous shows so everything is related but without being systematic. The exhibition that will open in Gerðarsafn is the fifteenth in the series.

The exhibition runs till November 9th. 

Creation, flow, creativity-flow

Creation: n. 1. The act of creating, making: creation of the world; art-creation; creativity. 2. That what is created: man is God's creation.[1]

Humans are by nature creative creatures that possess an insatiable need to create things. Creativity can even be what shapes their view of the world, that it was created and within it they were created. When the renaissance artist Michelangelo interpreted the creation of man in a unique fresco painting in the Sistine chapel, he emphasised the hand as the embodiment of creation. God appeared in heaven as a grey-bearded, wise man surrounded by stark naked angels, reaching out to Adam who sits on the grass rather weak and lazily holds up his thumb so he can receive the gift of life. The main focus is on the hands; the key element in this emblem of creation, but they do not touch. The thumbs of God and Adam are just about to spark, as if to show us that the idea of man on its own is lifeless; it is through the hand that creation comes to life.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology deals with our being as a physical being where the body is never independent from the world around us.[2]  The relationship between the mind and the body is such that whoever starts his car on a Monday morning, puts his hands on the steering wheel and drives off to work or school, broadens the range of his physical sensors in such a way that he perceives the car as an extension of himself. The vehicle is then controlled by the driver's physical intellect, without which he would undoubtedly crash into the first obstacle he would face.

In Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology it is assumed that the body itself carries knowledge and even possesses memory. An artist, for instance, who has often modeled or sculpted the human body, has gathered physical knowledge as well as memory about the material. There's no need for him to make a conscious decision on every single concept during the work process. The knowledge is etched into his body.

The tools that an artist uses to create are, in the phenomenological context, not only a link between the artist and the art, but also an extension of himself, whether his method be chopping, sawing, grinding, painting or drawing. In the words of the Finnish architect Juhan Pallasmaa: “The tool is an extension and specialization of the hand, which changes its natural capability and potentialities.”[3]  The tool then allows the hands to create shapes which they are not able to do on their own. The self-being as a body is then in direct contact with the creation through the tool, giving the gift of life, like the hand of God is just about to give life to Adam. 

Flow: n. [...] 4. To flow, stream out, scatter evenly into a different material.[4]

Many artists claim that the flow in creating is in fact what gives them the biggest pleasure. The Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who has put a lot of effort into explaining this much desired flow, says that even though it is not a requirement for creation, it is nonetheless an integral part of its diversity as it is when the artist is in a state of flow that he is able to cross boundaries. Flow is thus both stimulating and rewarding for the artist.

According to Csikszentmihalyi's ideas the artist needs to consider three different premises whilst creating in order to get into a flow. He needs to find balance between his talent and his challenges; he needs to set a goal for himself in order to have an overview of his actions; and he needs to get feedback, for instance by exhibiting his work. These three things will make it easier for him to get into the flow.

Csikszentmihalyi claims that artists are likely to adopt tools that will stimulate the flow;[5] tools they feel are natural extensions of their hands. An artist who creates in a flow is in fact using his physical intellect as he shapes the art-piece. Anyone who creates with his hands and is in a flow will forget both time and place and literally immerse himself in the creation; the “creation flow”. Logic is not what controls every movement of his hands. He trusts in their knowledge and memory while enjoying the moment that is under the direction of the flow. This is where his pleasure in creating lies, his drive and reason for doing what he does – even the whole purpose behind his artistic creations. For the artist, the flow becomes similar to the vitality that Adam seeks when he lifts his thumb toward God's extended hand.

Creativity-flow: n. Compound word. Creation, flow.

Helgi Hjaltalín Eyjólfsson (born 1968) and Pétur Örn Friðriksson (born 1967) are artists who create in a flow. Inventions, experiments and “the joy of making things” are characteristicsof their art.

Helgi is known for elaborately constructed things that often take a stand regarding social issues, as the flow does not eliminate art that criticises society or a conceptual approach in art. The artist can be tied to a certain project, such as a particular space or theme, or abide to a certain ideology regarding art, yet work in a flow.

Helgi first got attention for his art-pieces that were also made as weapons and could in fact be used as such. Most of his work is done in wood although he also uses other materials such as iron and plastic. In resent years the artist has taken to using watercolours; however, his watercolour-pictures always seem to be, in a sculptorly fashion, a part of the “object”.

Pétur first appeared on the art scene when he presented electric artwork where various clockworks played a part within constructive sculptures. Any type of rotation or sound then has an aesthetical purpose rather than being a logical part of the piece. The object has since played a bigger role in his art although he has not abandoned the clockwork.

Pétur has resolved to reconstruct his work every now and then. A certain undetermination is always involved since the outcome is never predetermined even though the original still exists. The remake is a new and different art piece, when created in a flow.

Helgi and Pétur's paths first crossed when they both studied at the Icelandic College of Art and Crafts and later during their graduate studies at AKI (Akademie Voor Beeldene Kunst) in Holland. They both work as independent artists but also collaborate and exhibit under the title Aim, where they utilise each other's talents and expertise. The work process begins with an idea, which they throw back and forth, find an executive role and start forming the concept. At times the idea doesn't work in the collaboration and one of them takes it under his wing, so to speak. In other cases the idea evolves during the work process; a different material and form is used according to the role of each artist. In the end it has grown into a work of art. This journey from an idea to a work of art does not follow the road of logic – that's how it is in a flow – just like in Michelangelo's fresco which can hardly count as a logical representation of the creation of man. It tells us, however, a few things about creation and flow.

Jón B. K. Ransu

[1] Árni Böðvarsson, Íslensk orðabók, Bókaútgáfa Menningarsjóðs Reykjavík, 1983.

[2] Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, Routlidge, 2004.

[3] Juhani Pallasmaa, The Thinking Hand, John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 2009.

[4] Árni Böðvarsson, Íslensk orðabók, Bókaútgáfa Menningarsjóðs Reykjavík, 1983.

[5] Mihaily Csikszentmihayi, Creativity. Flow and the Pshicology of Discovery and Invention, Harper Perennial, 1997.