Hidden worlds

Icelandic mythology is populated by hidden races of little folk - jarðvergar (gnomes), álfar (elves), ljósálfar and dopkalfar (light and dark elves), dvergar (dwarves), ljúflingar (lovelings), tìvar (mountain spirits), englar (angels) and huldufólk (hidden people).

Inside the Mountain with water reflexion

Fields of purple lava cloaked in verdant moss and the steaming winds from geothermal areas make it easy to imagine these peoples dwelling in this dream-like landscape. I have been particularly interested in this idea of the hidden people and this has helped to inspire my latest series of paintings.

The hidden people have the appearance of humans and are similar to us in size and shape. While they live in hills, large rocks and cliffs when you enter their homes they closely resemble modern human dwellings. In rural areas, the hidden people keep cows, sheep and other domestic animals and generally their occupations are similar to those of humans.

The Origins of the Hidden People

‘Once upon a time, God Almighty came to visit Adam and Eve. They received him with joy, and showed him everything they had in the house. They also brought their children to him, to show him, and these he found promising and full of hope. Then He asked Eve whether she had no other children than these whom she now showed him. She said "None." But it so happened that she had not finished washing them all, and, being ashamed to let God see them dirty, had hidden the unwashed ones. This God knew well, and said therefore to her, "What man hides from God, God will hide from man."

These unwashed children became forthwith invisible, and took up their abode in mounds, and hills, and rocks. From these are the elves descended, but we men from those of Eve's children whom she had openly and frankly shown to God. And it is only by the will and desire of the elves themselves that men can ever see them. The hidden people are usually neither friendly nor hostile towards humans. They reward those who do good to them, but they are also very vengeful if you do them harm or cross them in any way. For this reason it can be very dangerous to get involved in their love lives.

Evolution of my new work

1. The hidden world series

Inside the Mountain, Acrylic on Canvas, 200x40cm, April 2009

Working from the idea of hidden people and a hidden world, I started a series of paintings in which mountains were depicted not simply as elevated landforms composed of rocks and earth but are in fact another dimension which plays host to hidden worlds. The painting ‘Inside the Mountain’ for instance opens up on a world within the mountain into which the viewer is drawn. For that purpose, the work was created by successively dripping the paint to form a series of layers. 

Inside the Mountain, Dripped Paint

Past the Blue Mountain, Acrylic on Canvas, 180x48cm, April 2009

Past the Blue Mountain, details

The piece 'Past the Blue Mountain' followed a similar approach and in the painting detail above, you can see the mountains play host to strange bird-like life. The third painting that completes the series ‘Past the Moss Ball’ plays around the same theme of a world hosted in the bosom of the mountain. The vivid colours refer to the imaginary while more earthly colours such as black and green recall fields of lava and moss, two elements inseparable in the Icelandic landscapes. Beliefs or stories about hidden creatures are still widespread in Iceland: locals would point out rocks supposed to be homes to elves while many lava or rock formations have stories attached to them.

Past the Moss Ball, Acrylic on Canvas, 200x50cm, Mai 2009

Past the moss ball, detail

2. Icelandic landscapes

In the more representative paintings such as 'On the Way to Borgarvirki' and 'Vaðlaheið', the same idea of a hidden world prevails in a less obvious way. The imperfect reflection of the ice mountains in the water in 'On the Way to Borgarvirki' invites the viewer to regard them as two similar but different worlds.  

On the way to Borgarvirki, Acrylic on canvas, 200x100cm, April 2009

The depth of the Vaðlaheið mountain and its endless water reflection follows the same idea of a tangible world that could nonetheless host hidden life. The melting of the ice and snow on mountains in the springtime enhances the living element in them. The outflow from the snow sculpts the mountain and resembles a white life-giving blood circulating through them.

The constantly evolving colour of the water in the ocean and lakes due to the ever-changing sky confers upon it a depth that invites the viewer to wonder about what life and lives, hidden from us, it can shelter

Vaðlaheið (or Six fathoms below), Acrylic on canvas, 200x100cm, April 2009


Anonymous said...
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Todd Whittemore said...

Wow! Great blog!! very nice paintings!
You are a great artist!

Nadege Druzkowski said...

Thank you! I suppose Iceland is very inspiring. :-)