Sharp-edged, heavy and amorphous: a lump of black, porous rock sits at the window in Elin Jakobsdottir’s studio: a reminder of Nature’s sublime indifference, it is a souvenir of the volcano Hekla that erupted in Iceland in 1970 a few kilometres from where Jakobsdottir aged two was playing. When it became clear that the house the family lived in would be buried in ash and debris, they ed with cooking pots on their heads - protection against the rain of rocks - into a Land Rover and then on to safety.
This slapstick image of the world continually plays itself out in the work of Elin Jakobsdottir. The daydream is the experience of reoccupying the state of a child at play, unaware of some pressing purpose that will shape the serious events of a day. Outside this oneiric state, the hierarchies, criteria and categories the world imposes are in turn thwarted by the apparent futility and purposeless of existence in the face of Nature. Elin Jakobsdottir’s work, which encompasses painting and lm, is a tragicomic meditation on the dream state and its rupture: a continual looping of wakefulness and subconscious.
Before studying drawing and painting at Glasgow School of Art, Elin Jakobsdottir contemplated a career in theatre and studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama focusing on movement studies. After a year, she transferred the wordless intentionality of how an actor might cross a stage onto how a pen, brush or pencil might traverse a blank page leaving the trace of a thought. She continually plays o the amorphous against the archetype, the arti ciality of the roles assumed in life occur in Jakobsdottir’s work as scissor cut silhouettes -old man, young woman, child etc. - occupying a space alongside a lexicon of inner organs, bones and mysterious accumulations of words and billowing colour. In Bertolt Brecht’s 1926 play Man Equals Man (Mann ist Mann) he explores personality as something that can be dismantled and reassembled like a machine. Jakobsdottir plays between ctions of the self and questions about the void ‘Activer le Vide’ . Is the body playing roles or is it a factory? The texts in the pictures, most often in French, refer to Jakobsdottir’s time in Paris where she was commissioned to make a lm in the empty Louvre museum in 2004.
Alongside the works on paper, Elin Jakobsdottir presents Eyes Cast, a lm recently commissioned by Leeds Museums and Galleries. The title refers both to the ambiguity of the gaze in two cast bronze portrait busts by Jacob Epstein but also to the experience of looking itself. Contemplation of an art work, a person or of nature may summon involuntary thoughts from the subconscious just as a casual glance can suddenly connect us to our most profound existential concerns.
Eyes Cast was shot in Super 8 in the museum and is a silent visual poem that traces a route through the building focusing on Epstein’s two portrait busts as they engage in a charged yet uncertain choreographed dance, which ends with their disappearance. Decorative richly coloured tiled surfaces and stairways in turn fade into the natural forms from which they derive as we move outside into a monochrome landscape. The man-made world of things re-emerges when the uttering leaves of a parkland reverie drift into wrought iron vines decorating graves in St Elizabeth Friedhof in Mitte, Berlin.