sRGBlítilLife in the magic mirror
by Ólafur Engilbertsson/ translation: Victoria Taylor

The sisters Sara and Svanhildur Vilbergsdottir combine forces in
painting. They have different approaches to the subject, one paints thickly
and the other thinly, but together they come to a result that is often a
wonderland where unexpected things happen. Characters from the fairy tales of
the Brothers Grimm and gossip from the newspapers communicate with the sisters
dressed in colourful costumes.

The co-operation has led them through a forest of change in which organised work with photographs and projections has taken over from a loose combination of collage images and paintings. The picture composition which was random at the beginning is now more purposeful. The presidential couple that had been placed at the edge of the painting are given “emotional space” with additional canvas, whilst Tiger Woods enjoys the favour of Snow White on the golf course. The artwork was created at Korpúlfsstaðir in the vicinity of the golf course, so that in many places there is interplay between reality and the imagination.

The sisters cooperation in the creation of these artworks should be used as an example for the politicians of today because they are grounded in positive negotiations concerning development and implementation, which admittedly, takes varying lengths of time, but after the organisation of the work Sara and Svanhildur allow changes to take place within the canvas, allowing them to improvise while they paint. Thus, the work often changes colour and flow as it progresses in the creative direction with entertaining results. During the implementation, the rule is that both are in place at the same time and neither can move the work if the other is absent. Although they have different styles, a unique fusion is created during the interplay and music plays an apparent important role in the creation. Indeed they call their method duet painting and compare it to the combination singing of a soprano and contralto. Music is always in the background whilst they paint and the colourful artwork is often developed under hot tropical tones.

The atmosphere in the paintings is both dreamlike and lightly playful. One is directed here and there not only into the fantasy world but also into art history. Edward Hopper and Frida Kahlo come to mind. Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits, in various circumstances, referred to the retablos-tradition in Mexico where the pictures were done for medical reasons or to help people come to terms with changing circumstances. People painted their accidents or diseases and therefore the self-portrait’s were often tormented. Sara and Svanhildur’s self potraits are far from being tormented but it can be seen that the self-portraits are a form of therapy.

By positioning themselves in the dreamy situation where anything can happen, the experience is automatically transferred to the work. They are like Alice in Wonderland in a kind of magic mirror, and encourage the experience of putting a painting in a painting in a painting, until the illusion is complete.

Surrealists like Dalí used this method to create a dream like reality. The surrealists play which is known as a great body or “cadavre exquis” results exactly from the cooperation where two or more work together. Usually it was done so that preparation and reasoning were taboo, but that which was in the air should get space in the picture. Sara and Svanhildur prepare themselves well and apply logic to their work, but it is clear that what is in the air also gets a place in their magic mirror.

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