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Friday, 24 February 2017

Last night in Skagaströnd

I should have been in the car today driving to the airport at Keflavik and picking up Tom and Linzi, then driving off on our big adventure. This was not to be.

A storm warning was given last night which put paid to our travel plans and I waited to find out if the flight would even take off. This was sent to everyone last night:

So basically the whole of the 1 road - Iceland's equivalent of the M1, was closed today, all buses cancelled as well as lots of flights.I have been in the studio all day and the wind is not that strong at all. We often miss storms as we're in a bit of an odd place. Watching the Westfjords from the water, it looks terrible over there and it's probably coming this way now!

So Tom and Linzi have landed safely and are comfortable in their last minute accommodation in Reykjavik, having just managed to get on the Grayline bus from the airport. The buses started running again at 5pm. There might even be time for shopping.... They are travelling up north tomorrow on the Straeto bus and I will pick them up from the hub of the north.... Blonduos. Then off we go - somewhere to be fully decided once we are sure of the weather. This is Iceland!

One of the benefits of the worry of flights, not having to get up early and being spark awake at 1am this morning was the amazing aurora show. I had packed up the studio, turned the lights off as I was last in and was just about to leave - looking like one of those donkeys in Greece with piles of stuff attached to them (camera bag, tripod, massive shopping bag, other camera stuff, drawings etc etc), the this happened. The sky was moving so fast and the lights were dancing for about an hour. Truly magical.

5 steps from the studio

tower of doom, studio on left (old fishing factory)

a beacon lights the foreground, hence the lighter grasses

some pink in there 

the whole sky. Stunning
This was one of those magical times when you can only stare upwards in awe. I have spent ages setting up the exposure of these by going outside in the light and checking focus distance etc. It's amazing, but to focus on infinity manually gives a slightly out of focus image. The sky is nearer than I thought.... Maybe not, but my focus ring seems to think so.

pressing the shutter and then running into position... Blurry, but I was there!

This is my studio space before I started to take things off the walls. I couldn't quite face doing it and it took me a good hour of sitting, looking forlorn before I could bring myself to take things off.There was also a pile of 'didn't make the wall' stuff and as I was going through it I felt that this was another place, another time. The mono prints and images I made in January seemed ancient. I do feel as though I have a plan of sorts for when I return, but it will take effort to make sure I don't stop finding time to make art.

These are my wonderful fingerless and thumbless gloves, loving made by Rhona. She even made them quirkily different to help me to remember which hand was which.... I love them!

This is the naked wall. A very sad looking place indeed.The mono prints on the left of the image have been photographed for layered work and scrapped, the shelves are now empty. The desk has been scrubbed and the floor swept. Another NES experience is over and I feel sad.

There is something about this places that draws me so much. It's not the prettiest, or the biggest (still only around 400 residents). It doesn't have lots of shops or entertainment (currently 1 shop - recently refurbished and excitingly new, 1 garage and a cafe which only opens in the summer. Oh and a folklore museum) BUT, it is a place where you can totally lose yourself, walking along the coastline, not seeing a soul, the sea disappearing into the black sand as it crashes in. The sea cliffs, my temporary thinking place are only about half a mile out of town, but they could be at the end of the earth. So peaceful and colourful.

The valley through the mountains with the river that no-one even seems to notice as it's 'just a little river', with the sides of Spakunafel covered in snow promising the top, but always teasing with another peak to go. I still haven't managed to get to the top. Maybe next year?

I love the electricity pylons here - much to the amusement of my fellow artists. There's something about the way they stretch through the landscape with no trees in sight to compete for height. People say that the weather changes often here, and it's true, within half an hour there can be so many types of weather and the light changes every five minutes. 

It's an odd experience, especially as a person who usually only cohabits with close family, to share a house, studio and live as a community with around 12 other people. There was a big blip last month, but that was more to do with people being ill-prepared for this type of existence. The people I have spent time with are wonderful and have such individual talents, that I am in awe of many of them. I know I have made great friends which will be sustained long beyond this Iceland experience, and others, I will remember fondly, but we will probably go our separate ways until we meet in a gallery or event along the way. This takes nothing away from how fabulous they are, but perhaps there is less in common with some, as with all of those we meet in life. The richness of my time here is down to everyone within NES and I am so thankful for the opportunity. Who could forget Ollis chips, moving plastic horses, naked mountain climbing, juggling, the tower challenge, tarmac, green tights, dinghy drills, and plumbers who take a shower during working hours.... Thanks guys.

I will miss this view. Every time I walk outside of the studio I am met with this. Calm, stormy, grey, pink blue - beautiful blue. This is exactly what it looks like in reality at least once a day. So peaceful and thought provoking. 

So I will finish up here. I think it is unlikely I will complete another blog as I am on the road until the 28th when I leave Iceland. There are many people to thank for contributing to my second NES residency, so thank you ALL, both here and at home. It's been a blast and I want to come back, perhaps in a late summer. If there are any artists reading this who haven't done a residency at all, apply, just go for it. It's an immersive experience that is impossible to replicate at home. I was a month in England in an artist residency and although it was wonderful, there's no comparison to moving into a different culture and country, even for a short while.  

It's hard to believe we did this, actually swam in the sea in Iceland at 2.7 degrees.
This is one of my favourite memories from here. Getting undressed on the beach and walking into icy cold water, not being able to feel my toes or fingers (one finger for an hour afterwards..) but going under anyway. Brilliant, invigorating, stupendous....

So long, from the desk at the bottom of the studio.

Bless Bless,


Aly x

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It would be great to hear your views or any questions you have about Iceland, Skagaströnd or the residency. Fire away!!