A key to our own poetry

When looking at Sigurdur Gudmundsson’s sculpture Ocean Eye on the seafront in Sortland, one sees the basic shapes that make up the sculpture – the boat, the house and the diamond-shaped opening in the middle of the house structure. The opening is like a window that has been moved into a diagonal position. At the same time, this diamond opens up onto the beautiful fjord and mountain scenery behind the sculpture. By an optical twist, the window seems to bring this scenery closer to the site of the sculpture while also framing the view so that it translates the landscape into culture; it reminds one of a landscape painting or a photograph.
The work plays with surfaces ranging in state from polished to unpolished. While the latter creates a sense of material presence, the former reflects the surroundings with its eternal play of light. In a way, the surfaces also present the potential for expression inherent in this beautiful black granite that is quarried and shaped in this region.

Sigurdur Gudmundsson seems fascinated with different artistic techniques. He has played with the possibilities of using photography to document, by crystallizing into single images, his one-man performances. He has made sculptures of stone, metal, bronze and brick, as well as tested very unorthodox combinations of materials. He seldom masters these techniques himself. As an artist, he is more like a conductor than a craftsman, a conductor who makes people play their instruments beautifully by genuinely appreciating these people’s knowledge and craftsmanship, all the while leading their “play” towards realizing his own poetical visions, dreams, and remembrances.

Sigurdur Gudmundsson makes large-scale sculptures that often weave stories about the theme of nature versus culture. The sculptures give an impression of belonging to a vast, universal canvas where the whole story is in the process of being projected, painted, and sculpted. The dimensions of Gudmundsson’s work seem to refer to the monumental scale and crucial importance of the story, in which he participates in the telling. Another, equally important aspect is the presence of the kind of visibility that is characteristic of Icelandic landscapes. It is the scarcity of these landscapes, with their special kind of solemn openness, which is easy to connect to his visual thinking and the way he places sculptures in space. Things are clearly visible in these scenes: you see the form of every hill, stone and house. They are surrounded by huge expanses of emptiness and this results in each object having a highly significant visual presence. He seldom seems to worry about exactly where the object is placed for he seems to trust in their presence and visibility in all circumstances.

His vision turns everything into poetry or into keys for our poetry. The sculpture in Sortland gives the keys to our own stories of houses, boats, and diamond-shaped forms, which in card games mean journeys. The game is set for the flight of our own imagination and for the creation of our own remembrances.

Maaretta Jaukkuri


My work is not a reproduction of
An event I experienced myself.

I am not that experienced,

My work is not a visual translation
Of knowledge gathered by me.

I am not that knowledgeable.

My work is a personal remembrance
Of something I did not experience.

My works wants to be coagulated remembrance
In which event can find their own memory.
Sigurdur Gudmundsson

the weight of time
Maybe we will become a couple?
Let me just have some time...

You are heavy, I thought. I saw the boat in you, and remembered my childhood wonder about how boats made of iron could float. In America there was supposed to be a boat of concrete. In the brook behind the house only bits of wood and cork floated, maybe some paper or dry grass...
You are really heavy, I thought, and lack the bend of the gunwale,
But could I be able to sail you?

You are tall and proud, not at all like we build them here.
I have seen the house in you, and remembered how we wondered about the tall houses in town. Could people live in them?
However, I am sure such a teasing challenge to weather and wind is a sign of strength, and the gable is fine enough. So I must be able to live in you.

You are cold too, and, God help me! I wanted to warm myself against the smooth inside of your thighs. You lay there with your knees apart and your heals gathered. I wanted to see mountains and the sky reflect, travel into the unknown, away across all oceans, see the world as she once was
Through the broken glass on my childhood beach, brown and blurred, but preferably green...
However, the warmth must come form me, it seems,
So, can I learn to love you?

Let me just have some time...
Then I’m sure we will become a couple!       


Feelings and granite

When you first see the sculpture, it seems simple enough. If one studies it and lets one’s imagination play freely, one can see many different figures in it.

The lower part clearly looks like a ship. The upper part can then be the bridge, but the roof is formed like the roof of a house. The square in the middle could be anything. Diamond-shaped squares as in a deck of cards is the first thing I think of. You may look through the square as if it were a window, and you can see that everything reflects on the inside of the square. It gives everything a larger perspective. The stones are black and dark and remind one of loneliness. The site it is on emphasises the feeling of loneliness. It stands out towards the sea, as if it were looking for something. The sculpture consist of stones with sharp edges, making it perhaps seem a little reserved towards the world around it. I think of a person who stands completely alone, without anyone around, looking for something or someone, and who is scared about anything unknown. Black is dependently a cold or warm colour. The sculpture has a window so that we can see either the stormy sea or a little centre, with people who are laughing and talking. It is almost as if the longer I look at the sculpture, the more lonely and alone, cold and sad I feel. However, still free and happy. How are we supposed to feel? Should we feel sad? I don’t understand what I feel, is that normal? An ordinary sculpture made of stones piled on top of each other. How can that awaken more emotions the longer one studies it?

Cathrine Hansen

Ocean Eye

A monument is supposed to symbolise life.
Instead I see death.
A firm hand around eternity.
Arms that hold you back.
As you let your gaze fall towards the black iciness
it wipes the contours from you face.
You no longer have any feelings, the blood
coagulates in your veins and sucks your body to it.


It will be difficult to make something that everyone in Sortland will like and understand.
The artist Sigurdur Gudmundsson to Vesteraalens Avis 20.07.91

The artist shows us closeness between poetry and daily life. His visual poetry is not removed from life; it asks us to look at things from another angle.
Harstad Tidende reviews “Havsøye” (“Ocean Eye”) 16.11.98

Perhaps one of the most important art events in the history of the municipality.
Deputy Mayor Atle Haugen at unveiling of the sculpture. Vesterålen 03.11.92

Those who have opposed the project have apparently stayed away. Everyone was there and they applauded in unison, even though they were benumbed with cold.
Vesterålen 03.11.92

Nice? No, no and definitely not. I can’t understand the point of it at all, but then I am not so culturally-inclined.  
Heidi Kristensen

When one does not understand what it is supposed to be then it becomes impossible to say that it is nice.
Knut Nordlund

Both answer questions from Vesterålen about what they think of the sculpture.
Vesterålen 05.12.92.