Hildur ÁsgeirsdÓttir JÓnsson, Artist
2008 MID-CAREER AWARD FOR VISUAL ARTS
During the past 14 years Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson has
created several extraordinary series of works based upon images of
brain scans, celestial objects and, most frequently, the landscape of
Iceland. She works in a variety of forms, including ink drawings and
intricate embroideries, but her principal works are paintings upon silk
thread that are woven together to create shimmering, indefinite
“By bleeding dye (akin to watercolor or thinned-down paint) into each thread,” explains critic and curator Saul Ostrow, “Jónsson creates expanses of subtle atmospheric color and delicate traceries of line” that “conjoin her impressions of the sensuously austere character of Icelandic landscape to formalist issues.”
Jónsson’s sense of material and technique is thus “made assertively present, rather than becoming a neutral vehicle to the service of her imagery.” The result is that her works become “unmoored from the allusions to the glaring light-filled arctic landscape which inspire them, or inversely, the associations they may stimulate,” says Ostrow. “Her elegant expanses of color and massive flat forms—with their deftly modulated surfaces—do not resemble in any literal way land, sea or sky.” Jónsson’s “open and airy compositions” thus evoke “a sense of space rather than place,” while "the precarious balance [she has achieved] between opticality and tacticality”—what the eye is experiencing vs. one’s awareness of what he calls her purposeful “disposition” of image—produces in the viewer an exquisite fusion of pleasure and control.
Like the work of color-field abstractionists, such as Morris Lewis, and the expressive landscapes of early American modernists, such as Arthur Dove—both of which Jónsson’s work has been compared to—her paintings deliberately, yet spontaneously, evoke a sense of atmosphere more than place, of intimacy rather than objective portrayal. The Plain Dealer’s Steven Litt, reviewing a recent exhibition in Cleveland, observed that “Jónsson’s images remain tantalizingly out of reach” and “communicate an air of unresolved tension and expectation, while seducing the viewer with their soft edges and indistinct imagery.”
Born in Iceland in 1963, the artist has spent her life shuttling between her native country and northeast Ohio. After an Icelandic childhood, her family moved to the United States for five years while her father, a doctor, pursued further training. Three of those years, from 6th through 8th grade, were spent in Cleveland. After completing her course of study at Reykjavik Junior College, she returned to Ohio in 1983, enrolling at Kent State University with the intent to study architecture. Finding herself drawn increasingly to art, she studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art for several years before continuing at Kent, completing her B.F.A. in 1991 and an M.F.A. in 1995. Throughout her career she has lived primarily in the Cleveland area, spending part of each year in Iceland, where she also has a home.
Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson has presented her work in one-person shows in Cleveland; at New York’s Scope gallery; at FAVA in Oberlin; and in Akureyri and Reykjavik in Iceland. Notably, her work was celebrated in a one-person exhibition at Cleveland’s Museum of Contemporary Art in 2005. Widely exhibited locally, her work has also appeared in group exhibitions in Kyoto, Japan; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Barcelona, Spain; and Paris, France. Selected for inclusion in the Neo Show, a juried exhibition mounted in 2005 at the Cleveland Museum of Art, her work was purchased by the museum for its permanent collection. In 2004 Jónsson was awarded an Individual Artist’s Fellowship by the Ohio Arts Council and the same year was commissioned to create works of art to be presented in that year’s Governor’s Awards in the Arts.
Her paintings are in public collections, including the Reykjavik Art Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Ohio Arts Council. Her work can also be found in many corporate and institutional collections, such as those of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Progressive Corporation, National City Bank, University Hospitals and Hahn Loeser + Parks.Jónsson is represented by galleries in Iceland, New York and Cleveland.