Ideal forms and folktales
Hreinn Fridfinnsson was born in Iceland in 1943 and has lived in Amsterdam since the early 1970s. He was one of the founders of the SÚM group, which played a decisive role in avantgarde art’s development in Iceland during the 1960s. Hreinn Fridfinnsson has consistently worked within the genre of conceptual art using a range of media and materials. His starkly simplified forms convey a sense of complex meanings and content, a poetic radiance that expresses dreams, recollections and repressed inner forces.
Elf’s Castle is centrally located in the small community of Hattfjelldal. It outer form is defined by aluminum profiles that draw a tetraeder or a stereometric figure in which all of the sides are equal triangles. Through the three open vertical triangular sides one sees stones stacked on the base of the tetraeder. The stones consist of unpolished natural stone, polished granite and a rock crystal.
Hreinn Fridfinnsson continues his work with contrasts and opposites in Elf’s Castle. Contrasts between inner and outer space, opposites in content and philosophical problems. The work primarily alludes to Plato’s concept of the absolute form, materialized in the four equally sized and shaped sides that become a symbol for the perfect, ideal image of the world. At the core of the entity, in the consummate beauty of the stereometric form, we seek human existence. Ultimate harmony and beauty emerges.
Elf’s Castle makes reference to Nordic folktales as well, to cliff-dwelling elves who help people in need and trolls that are transformed into stone at the sight of daylight. The work may thus be considered not only a symbol of blessing but also of curses and hidden, primitive forces. Yet another interesting connection may be made with the Sami culture, among others, where the triangle is a symbol for the world. The diverse materials, aluminum, natural stone, polished granite and rock crystal link the work to place, nature and mines in the Hattfjelldal area. However, differences in their character and treatment add tension to the work.
The artist attempts to visualize the indefinable and abstract beyond reality’s materiality. We may thus view Elf’s Castle as a symbol for a classical worldview that encounters a mystical and secret world beyond the rules of logic. In spiritual nature there exists forces that transcend distinctions between the outer, concrete world and our own inner worlds. This search is expressed in Elf’s Castle where a state of harmony reigns between perfect beauty and human chaos.
A safe dwelling
The sculpture had been installed in the old Lapp churchyard at Hattfjelldal, not far from the Lapp school. I was walking there one winter’s day just before Christmas. Snow had fallen during the night and I was on my way to the Lapp school when I caught sight of it. I found myself standing and looking.
There, in a triangle (four sides including the bottom of the sculpture), sit our three Lapp aahkaer!
The newly fallen snow covers the tops (heads) which seems to be wearing headscarves or some other head gear. They sit facing the Lapp school.
In our Lapp mythology we have seven female divine beings and three of them are very important: Saaraahka, Oksaahka and Joksaahka. They are the daughters of Maadter-Aahka – the Earth Mother.
Saaraahka ramifies the family, finds the right parents for a child maadter-aahka to be born. Saaraahka also makes sure that the animals reproduce and that everything grows on earth. Oksaahka guards the door, keeping an eye on what goes in and out. Joksaahka is the patron for boys. It is said that she could change a foetus from female to male inside the mother’s womb. This is something modern scientists know happens inside the DNA chain, in a specific place, but whitout knowing why.
So there sat three figures inside a triangular pyramid. Commonly used in southern Lapp ornamentation. I became interested in the artist who had made this sculpture, and I was told he came from Iceland. From Iceland! From the country where the president was called Finnbogadottir – Hreinn Fridfinnsson!
I heard a talk about art at a cultural event in Denmark many years ago, where the speaker told us that an artist wasn’t always conscious of what he/she was depicting. They are inspired, work on their ideas and are often surprised at the results.
This must have been the case in Hattfjelldal when the artist from President Finnbogadottir’s home country, with both «-rein» (reindeer) and «-finn» (Lapp) in his name, came to the district, went up into the mountains and fetched the material for the sculpture which he then placed in the old Lapp church yard. And then let the figures live within three vertical triangles with a fourth triangle as the bottom or floor of the «kåte» (lapp tent).
The artist himself has called the sculpture Elf’s Castle. It seems he suspected that this was a dwelling for creatures that cannot be seen or grasped by everyone. That he called their house castle signifies that they are safe. It takes great force and resources to conquer a castle, if anyone wanted to take on such a task.
In the southern Lapp language, the word Aahka means something good and safe. It means grandmother, but also women of grandmother’s age are addressed and referred to as Aahka. The word was an honorary title and an Aahka had certain privileges and was to be treated with respect. However, an Aahka also had duties. She had to take action when someone did or said something bad, and find a resolution that was agreeable to all. Our three Aahkas in the sculpture sit safely on the ground of our forefathers and look at present day Lapp life. They have made themselves known to show that our Aahkas still keep an eye on our doings and carryings-on. In the southern Lapp language the sculpture would be called Aahkajgåetie!
Anna Jacobsen, HATTFJELLDAL
Opinions about the sculpture differ among Hattfjelldal folk.
Helgeland Arbeiderblad 19.08.93
The sculpture can bring attention to Hattfjelldal, both nationally and internationally.
Mayor Herlaug Granås
We do not have any tradition for monumental art in the rural districts. It has been reserved for the big cities.
Mayor Herlaug Granås
I get a little curious when I see the nice stones.
Local politician Hilde Dahl
Quotes from Helgeland Arbeiderblad 23.08.93
The sculpture’s form, placement and the costs of making it are not to the sculpture’s credit.
Helgeland Arbeiderblad 02.01.93
Would you have preferred that the sculpture got a better reception?
I am happy that the sculpture is being discussed. It is healthy to disagree and to discuss such.
Mayor Herlaug Granås in Helgeland Arbeiderblad 02.01.93
If only it had been made by someone in town.
Jakob Remmen, Helgelands Blad 24.12.1994