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Ragnar Kjartansson

Opening this Summer, this exhibition will be the first ever UK survey of the internationally acclaimed Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson. Taking inspiration from his family’s involvement in the theatre scene, Kjartansson’s talent is shown through several media as his practice is multi-disciplinary.  Drawing from an eclectic history of stage traditions, film, music, traditional Icelandic stories, to opera and contemporary pop culture, Kjartansson’s work is an emotional journey that conveys both romantic melancholy and humour.

Reflecting on the politics of myth and identity, Kjartansson explores the boundary between fact and fiction through performances, video installations, drawings and paintings. Music, repetition and endurance are key tools in the artist’s attempt to celebrate and ridicule the romanticised figure of the artist as a cultural hero –a figure he isn’t afraid to play with as he dons various guises from a knight to a Hollywood crooner to the incarnation of death.

As the youngest artist to represent Iceland at the Venice Biennale (2009), Kjartansson’s ingenuity becomes transparent in the thin balance between the shameless romanticism and light heartedness of his works. In his autobiographical Take me here by the Dishwasher: Memorial for a Marriage (2014), ten troubadours wander around singing and strumming their guitars against the projected soft focus love scene, acted by the artist’s parents. One of the earliest works on show, Me and My Mother, is an on-going video collaboration with his mother dating from 2000, which features four video screens, filmed over five years apart where she vigorously spits in his face on a loop. Full of encounters between the banal and the dramatic, this survey of Kjartansson’s works is a playful insight into one of Iceland’s most intriguing mind.

Read the full press release in our newsroom.

Ragnar Kjartansson is on display from 14 July–4 September 2016.

The exhibition is organised in collaboration with the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.