Life in a Nordic Town
Moving to North West Iceland in winter without gloves is very ‘me’ – that and losing my jacket and keys somewhere along the journey. In fact, lots of things are very ‘me’. A messy bedroom, fig rolls, drone crashing, shoddy tent building, drunkenness and mild histrionics. That said, my instinct has lead me here. My instinct for places is what I am most proud of and now is a time for celebrating self-belief (a chorus of ‘about fucking time’ just rang out across the Northern Atlantic). I’m ditzy but daring – a combination that somehow delivers results. Skagaströnd is nestled amongst some very dramatic scenery and the skies are exceptional. It will be my home for the next two months. The amount of daylight is something I will have to navigate with sensitivity, for both my work and my headspace. Today was the first time I appreciated the preciousness of daylight so far North. I rose after 10am to murky blackness and watched the sun fight clouds from 11:30am, peaking in brightness by lunchtime. Now at 3:05pm, night is descending fast. In a whisper and a wink, one day can be swallowed by the next. I’ve joined the local gym and will invest in vitamin D supplements. I will make sure to spend daylight hours outside, eat well and I’ve sworn to keep my room tidy (those of you who know me, scoff you might).
After a delicious lunch of surprisingly affordable Icelandic lamb in the nearby cafe (that opens for 2 hours on days that are to remain a strict mystery) I wandered further along the coast. Having initially had an explosive reaction to the local water – my lavatorial expenditure is thankfully once again of the solid variety. Wrapped superfluously, I set off with my camera. The temperature here can fluctuate wildly – from biting, negative daytime figures to a strangely mild 8 degrees celsius. It can be hard to know what to wear – but I usually achieve ‘elegant/burly’ in a scruffy, bedraggled sort of way. Scaling a barbed wire fence labeled with indecipherable warnings, I settled in a field by the beach to shoot some timelapses. I’m enthralled observing colours battle for dominance overhead. Today’s ‘peachy pink’ versus ‘powdered navy’ was a dish. The ever-present likelihood of Northern Lights adds an exquisite layer of anticipation. I’ve joined a Whatsapp group with the other artists which allows us alert each other to any Aurora activity. Dusk was falling on the beach when a tall man appeared with a large shot gun. He stood brandishing the weapon, staring silently at me and my camera. My explosive toilet issues were threatening a return when, as with all Icelanders I have encountered, the gunman’s gestures soon suggested polite friendliness. He ambled out of sight along the beach with a companion. The thunderous gun shot that rang out shortly afterward was most likely nothing to worry about. I headed back promptly all the same.
I feel a shared panic amongst other new people on the residency – that our ideas won’t flow or that everyone else is just a bit more ‘artist’. Is photographing the sky enough to warrant me being here? Why am I so visually attracted to the darker register? What comes next? Where’s my jacket? Whose feet are they? I’m approaching my doubts and anxieties with a newly found Irish sensibility – a gentle paternal encouragement; ‘ah here Paul, shut yer hole’ (more choruses from across the sea). I’ve also started reading ‘The Artist’s Way’ which thus far strikes many chords. I’m looking out my studio window with waves crashing and clouds rolling in an icy unison. Iceland is now my palette. Its skies are dramatic; its landscape is unique. And its colours are, well, very ‘me’.