Bjarni H. Þórarinsson: Wide Spectrum

The complex but strangely compelling Visi-Roses of Bjarni H. Þórarinsson are part of a vast undertaking that began in 1987. In these delicate pencil drawings, language is merged into a formal, visual presentation – language and image become one. These works are based on long lists of words where Bjarni explores the possibilities for compounding words and ideas to achieve a general overview of a particular realm of human thought. In the images, these compound words are freed from the linear form of the list and, instead, take on the form of a circle or wheel where all are connected in a single movement, offering endless possibilities for interpretation and understanding.

Bjarni studied at the Icelandic College of Arts and Crafts from 1973-1977 and was one of the first students of the New Art Department, founded in 1975. Led by Magnús Pálsson, this department introduced students to the ideas and practices of the international avant-garde, with a long roster of Icelandic and international artists as guest instructors. Alongside more traditional instruction, students tried their hand at performances and happenings, used photography, film and sound in addition to more conventional media, created works in book form or on a larger scale as land art, and took part in various collaborations. In 1977 Bjarni, along with other artists, founded Gallerí Suðurgata 7 which was, for a few years, the primary venue for avant-garde and Fluxus art, with both young and older Icelandic artists exhibiting and performing, as well as several artists from abroad. Bjarni was also one of the founding members of the Living Art Museum in 1978, an artist-run museum and exhibition space that still runs today. Bjarni exhibited often in the museum and a retrospective of his work was held in 2010.

After graduating, Bjarni worked in various media, as did most of his generation in Iceland. In 1987, however, he decided to concentrate on his own research to explore what was at work behind it all: Reality itself and its artistic expression. The Visi-Roses grew from this research, not as a final outcome but as a tool that the artist and we, the audience, can use to carry the research forward and achieve a better understanding of our own thoughts and experiences. A recent by-product of this effort appears as series of pictures reinterpreting well-known chess games in visual form. Instead of looking at each position on the chess board, as in traditional chess theory, Bjarni concentrates on the movement of the pieces and traces it in his drawings. By using methods similar to those of the Visi-Roses, Bjarni shows us the chess games as a complex, rhythmic dance, a living process where all possibilities are open.

The exhibition in BERG Contemporary, titled Wide Spectrum, presents more than a hundred works that have never been exhibited before. Visi-Roses form the bulk of the exhibition but there are also two series of drawings where Bjarni explores chess games by, respectively, Friðrik Ólafsson, the first Icelandic grand master, and the Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, who recently became World Champion for the third time running. The exhibition provides an excellent introduction to Bjarni’s ideas and his artistic expression. In addition to the works themselves, visitors can see an interview with the artist where he explains his philosophy and his artistic practice.


Jón Proppé


Curator: Aðalheiður Valgeirsdóttir.

Video recording & editing: Edda Björnsdóttir.

Upcoming exhibitions

Jóna Hlíf Halldórsdóttir

August 19 – October 1, 2022

Past exhibitions

Einar Falur Ingólfsson

January 15 – February 26, 2022

Dieter Roth

November 13 – December 23, 2021

Hulda Stefánsdóttir

September 18 – November 6, 2021

stance I linear narratives

June 16 – September 4, 2021

Sigurður Guðjónsson

April 9 – June 5, 2021

Haraldur Jónsson

December 19, 2020 – February 27, 2021

Páll Haukur

November 9, 2019 – January 11, 2020

Styrmir Örn Guðmundsson

September 13 – November 2, 2019

Event Horizon

August 10 – September 7, 2019

Cheating the Constant

June 21 – August 2, 2019

Rósa Gísladóttir

January 19 – February 23, 2019

John Zurier

October 12 – December 22, 2018

Kees Visser

August 17 – October 6, 2018

Katrín Elvarsdóttir

May 11 – August 3, 2018

Björn Roth

March 3 – April 28, 2018


November 3 – December 22, 2017

Dodda Maggý

August 18 – October 21, 2017

Steina & Woody Vasulka

May 11 – August 4, 2017

Kristján Steingrímur

March 11 – April 29, 2017

Monika Grzymala

January 14 – February 25, 2017

Haraldur Jónsson

October 28 – December 10, 2016

Sigurður Guðjónsson

September 2 – October 22, 2016


July 15 – August 13, 2016

Hulda Stefánsdóttir

May 21 – July 2, 2016

Finnbogi Pétursson

March 18 – May 7, 2016