The Katanes Beast
Kjartan Guðjónsson 1921-2010
Kjartan Guðjónsson studied at the Reykjavík School of Crafts 1942–43, then pursued further study at the highly-esteemed Art Institute of Chicago. On completion of his studies Kjartan took his place among modernists in Iceland. He was involved in the foundation of the September (Septem) group, which held its first exhibition in 1947 at Listamannaskálinn in Reykjavík – a show which would have a wide impact in Iceland. In 1966 Kjartan held his first exhibition for 12 years, at Listamannaskálinn, where he showed abstract paintings that were inspired nature impressions, both conscious and unconscious. The paintings were made up of rather dark tones, enlivened by delicate line-drawing that links the artist to American expressionists such as Gorky and Bradley Walker Tomlin.
In his Katanesdýrið/The Katanes Beast (1966), Kjartan uses colour to construct form, “drawing” with paints and more delicate lines. Blue is dominant, while shades of yellow and red create a sort of focus, from which something threatening or “bestial” seems to be breaking out, from the pond at Katanes where, according to folklore, the beast resided, or from the artist’s unconscious.