The Artist

“Thorvaldur Thorsteinsson is one of the most versatile and productive artists in Iceland. He writes books, plays and material for radio and television, and has received awards and grants both for visual arts and writing. His works are varied but it is possible to observe clear ideas behind them, and in all cases the same philosophy and the same author are present. In some of his works Thorsteinsson becomes almost invisible and absent and makes the viewer and the public the protagonists of the pieces; they create the art.

In the visual arts Thorsteinsson has done almost everything, from sculpture to performances. In recent years his work has to a growing degree been characterised by an activation of the environment, the public, and the parts of peoples’ everyday lives that are usually considered unimportant, inconsequential and naïve from an artistic point of view. By bringing clichés down to earth, by revealing the unexamined potential of the obvious and commonly known, and last but not least by creating a place for people to examine themselves rather than the work of art, Thorsteinsson constantly strives to use art to draw attention to something other than art itself and the artist; namely the unexplored adventure of the common everyday world.In Thorsteinsson’s video “The Most real Death” people act being shot down by a machine gun. The initial reaction of the audience is smiling or laughing but it slowly dawns on them that behind the humour there is a serious idea. Manipulation and people’s irrational reactions come to mind. People’s stated disgust of violence becomes meaningless when we see them participate in this game…”

Thorgeir Olafsson, Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, Reykjavik, Iceland

“Thorsteinsson´s pleasure principle is to give it all away, to give people something they actually already possess but have not yet recognized themselves.”

Mika Hannula, critique and director of the Helsinki Art Academie, Finland (From a feature article on Thorsteinsson in “nu” The Nordic Art Review, 2000)

“Instead of conveying sublimated truth or beauty, Thorsteinsson puts across interactive messages that overturn our traditional notion of art as a restricted and closed world.”

Olafur Gislason, curator, National Gallery of Iceland (From the book ART WORKS, focusing on Thorsteinsson´s visual art, 1998)

“Thorvaldur Thorsteinsson is an artist whose every exhibition comes as a surprise. A successful writer, as well as a visual artist, he combines elements from local culture to produce works that are both witty and evocative.”

Jon Proppé, curator (From the catalogue of MYND, an exhibition focusing on contemporary Icelandic Art, 2001)

“Thorvaldur Thorsteinsson, enjoys a reputation as one of Iceland's more provocative artists.”

Gregory Volk, curator and critique (Art in America, 2000)

“Everyday life is Thorsteinsson´s favorite material. He exposes it and dignifies at the same time in a complex manner. In a short time he has created a personal style where he, with deep intuition, deals with the true nature and principles of Art.”

(From the concluding words of the committee of the “RICHARD SERRA PRIZE”, 1997)

“Thorvaldur Thorsteinsson is one of the most brilliant artists of the nineties.”

G.J. Arnason Art Philosoph and critique (“nu” The Nordic Art Review, 2000)

The Writer

“Thorvaldur Thorsteinsson draws his artistic origins from the visual arts. His first steps in writing were a series of short radio plays, which he performed himself in a style utterly devoid of dramatic expression. His cynical comic talent was quickly recognized as well as his sharp eye for the absurd and comically meaningless in normal everyday dialogue. He turned this to its best effect his first full length drama for the stage, Talespin. Talespin is perhaps best described as a situation comedy written in the wrong key and designed to be performed out of tune. Among other plays is “The Message Pouch”, a grand scale musical adventure inolving dwarfs, trolls and a magic pouch; and “Loves Fable”, the simple adventure of a poor boy that wins the princess’ heart for his heroic deeds. “Loves Fable” is written in rhymed verse, a novelty in icelandic children drama and that turned out to be a part of the play’s public appeal. “Father and Son” or “Me and My Boy”, is a dramatic piece laced with comic irony that dives into a merciless portrayal of the relationship between an alcoholic father and his son. The dramatic screw is tightened when the past catches up with them in an unexpected way exposing their real lives. The strength of the play is the fact that the revelation of old truths is not likely to change the present situation in any way.

“Father and Son” is a strong addition to the impressive body of work Thorvaldur Thorsteinsson has produced to date and all of them suggest that his primary concern in his dramatic writing is based on his fascination with the visual power of theatre as a place of magic and of language as a thoroughly limited means of communication.

In last years Thorvaldur has gained a solid reputation as an author of children’s books. Two of those, “My Name is Betterby, you can call me Bobo” and “Are you Betterby, I have an Important Message” have gained international recognition for being among the best written in the genre during the nineties.”

Hávar Sigurjónsson, Editor Culture & Arts, Morgunbladid newspaper

“The true art is to make the motives as lovingly as possible, true and alive, so that it all comes together in a story that we have not heard before. And that is exactly what Thorvaldur Thorsteinsson does and therefore we have here a piece of total art.”

Siggi Seuss literary critique, about the first Betterby book (Zuddeautche Zeitung, Germany, 2002)

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