From 14 January to 13 March 2022, the Maison du Danemark
s arts space Le Bicolore, on the Champs-Élysées, in Paris, is hosting a major exhibition. As the sun bursts through looks at the importance of light and how its treatment has evolved in Faroese art of the 20th and 21st centuries via figurative and abstract artworks by Ingálvur av Reyni (1920-2005), Zacharias Heinesen (born in 1936), Hansina Iversen (born in 1966) and Rannvá Kunoy (born in 1975). In tandem with the exhibition, there will be a packed programme of accompanying events encompassing music, literature, cinema, design, gastronomy and folk art.
Probably because, for centuries, their position on the fringe of the north Atlantic kept them relatively isolated, in the Faroe Islands, age-old customs have remained living traditions. Faroese society blends traditional and contemporary culture in a way that is both distinctive and unique. As a result, the Faroe Islanders are at once a cohesive local community and an open-minded, globalized Nordic nation. Faroese contemporary art is firmly rooted in an unusual cultural heritage shaped by the living conditions and natural setting of these northern latitudes. Yet through the ages, in every period, the Faroese have embraced movements and inspirations from elsewhere and in particular from France.
The exhibition title alludes to a canticle by the baroque Danish poet Thomas Kingo (1634-1703), Som den gyldne sol frembryder (As the golden sun bursts through), which refers to the sun piercing pitchdark clouds. Kingos collection of hymns is of especial historical importance in the Faroe Islands, where it was for many years the main hymnal used. The hymns were sung not only in churches and at ceremonies, but by fishermen and other Faroe Islanders as they went about their everyday activities. The term Kingo-singing is used to refer to a strong Faroese tradition of folk singing unaccompanied by musical instruments, in which melodies vary widely from village to village and from singer to singer.
Through the artworks of four Faroese painters, the exhibition As the sun bursts through considers Faroese art from the standpoint of treatments of light in contemporary and more traditional schools of painting, from post-Impressionist interpretations of natural light to flat blocks of pure colour in abstract art, and pictures that themselves seem to capture and reflect light.
Light has played an essential role in Faroese art ever since its tardy beginnings in the early 20th century. From the very first depictions of landscapes, painted by self-taught artists and tinged with romantic nationalism, Faroese art has been bathed in light. That is hardly surprising, given the natural setting of the Faroes and their geographical location close to the Arctic Circle. But the bright light and vibrant colours typical of Faroese painting also stem from the French art the painters learned about at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. In Listasavn Føroya (the National Gallery of the Faroe Islands), the influence of artists such as Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, Braque and Monet is immediately obvious. The city of Paris itself, as the centre and birthplace of the modern art movements, also played a prominent role in the history of Faroese art. Despite the Faroes rich cultural life, there has never been an academy of fine arts on the islands, so Faroese painters and sculptors have traditionally gone abroad to study. The first generations of artists mostly trained at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. While studying there, they began to take an interest in Paris, where their teachers and other Danish artists used to make pilgrimages to study the French artists they sought to emulate. One of these teachers was Professor Aksel Jørgensen, who developed the theoretical underpinnings of colourist painting using flat blocks of colour, inspired by Impressionism and especially the ideas of Paul Cézanne. Colourism had a huge influence on emerging Faroese art, and forms the basis of the dazzling use of colour that is a strong element of contemporary Faroese painting.