Hreinn Friðfinnsson
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I collected personal secrets (1972–2015)
12 September - 7 November, 2015
Amsterdam / The Netherlands

In the early 1970s, the Icelandic artist Hreinn Friðfinnsson

(b. 1943, Iceland) placed an advert in a Dutch art magazine asking people to send him their secrets. By posing as a collector of secrets, the artist would, he thought, allay suspicions that he had any ulterior motive in using or revealing privileged information that might come his way. It is like something from a novel by José Saramago, or an urban myth or rumour. The secret, Friðfinnsson may be telling us, is that there isn’t one. His art, on the other hand, is an invitation to imagine that there might be.

The artist’s work is celebrated for its lyricism and stark poetry that transcends the often-commonplace subjects and materials that the artist uses to create his pieces. Although there is a consistency of theme and a common emotional thread to his art, the media that Friðfinnsson employs are remarkably varied in scale and substance, from photography, drawings and tracings to presentations and installations of sound, texts and ready-mades.

Friðfinnsson often presents found objects with which he interferes as little as possible, creating new works
that investigate ideas of the self and of time. He has said that: “Notions of time are always compelling. I read
what comes my way about physics and mathematics, but I read as one who is uninitiated. The feeling and the interest in the essence of time is serious, but my dealing with time is not knowledge-based; it is more exploratory and feeling-based”.

Iceland seems a long way from the sophisticated cosmopolitanism. Friðfinnsson, who has lived in the Netherlands for more than 40 years, wants us to appreciate both the culture he comes from, and the larger world in which he finds himself. There is an important lesson in this, especially from someone who has hidden himself somewhere deep down in Amsterdam with rarely a public appearance. His relationship to the world finds itself at the ‘self’. Friðfinnsson is a natural storyteller; hence that most of his works often beg a narrative, or the fabrication of a story, even when there isn’t one.

After 40 years, Friðfinnsson will conclude his “secrets project” for the exhibition at Kunstverein. The accumulated secrets will be used as base for a monochrome painting, which will be on display alongside the advertisements the project had published throughout the years.

Curated: Krist Gruijthuijsen
Photo: Tabea Feuerstein