Sigurður Ingólfsson is a true artist. With a uniquely open mind towards inspiration he treats every situation as a possible motif for his art. Since he was young he’s been on a constant journey toward one goal in particular – knowledge. Siguðrur refers to himself as “an eternal student”.
An ordinary day in the life of Sigurður Ingólfsson is no ordinary day. The artist/poet/philosopher/art historian/theologist/French literature expert treats everyday as a possible source of inspiration. The day I call Sigurður – for an interview I’ve been particularly interested in doing – he has just concluded a class in the latest subject he is about to conquer: Hebrew studies. What sounds like recently awoken Sigurður answers my call and our conversation begins with a quiet but powerful “shalom”.
Sigurður tells me about his youth and upbringing. He was born and spent most of his childhood in the north of Iceland. An environment that leaves great impressions on anyone who’s had the chance to witness it. There in the stunning but also harsh countryside he grew up with his grandparents. In this milieu he was born into an environment with a very special closeness to nature – something he shares with a lot of Icelanders. While discussing the topic of Icelanders special relationship to nature – and the possible impact it might have on their art – Sigurður proclaims that “everything concerning nature is important”.
The link between the Icelanders and the nature of their country is very apparent in Sigurður’s art. During the interview we’re constantly propelled back to the topic of this bond between nature and art. “Art is so important to the Icelandic consciousness. Iceland is very picturesque, and the Icelanders are a reading people. So art is constantly present. You can see it everywhere – in banks, post offices and town squares”.
Art had a special role in the world surrounding Sigurður during the years he was shaped into the person he would become. Later in life, his mother in law was an artist and Sigurður continued to be stuffed with ideas for artistic expression. But visual art was not the first type of expression that overtook him. Sigurður started his career in the creative field with poetry. After being moved and inspired by poets like Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire, Sigurður began to study literature. He wrote a large thesis on Edgar Allan Poe and would go on to become a doctorate in French literature at the university in Reykjavik. At the same time Sigurður started to publish his own poems. Today he has a total of eight poetry collections published under his name.
This set Sigurður on a path towards broadening the ways he expressed himself artistically. “At first I wasn’t sure if I could draw but when I was about to publish a new book of poems I tried to make the drawings – and from there it continued”. Since then drawing and painting has been important to Sigurður. He works in a simple but profound manner with acrylic and ink. His artworks are often small but in a way that resonates with his poems.
Sigurður is a skilled poet as well as a visual artist. Although he has ventured and explored these different artforms both separately and combined he emphasises how they relate to each other. “All art is connected. Poetry is sometimes very pictorial. It’s a short step from poetry to visual art. Images can always be used as a way to convey something you think is important”. This relationship between words and images has always been unquestionable to Sigurður.
At the end of my conversation with Sigurður we embark on the subject of how essential art can be as we go through life – confused and without a written map. We talk about how art can fill voids in our personalities and be helpful – but also how the role of being an artist can be a tough one to reconcile with. “What I live for is my art, but I still have problems calling myself a poet or an artist” he tells me, and our conversation wanders on.
My last question to Sigurður is what role art plays in his life today. Sigurður answers me and keeps his answer short after thinking for a while. “Sometimes it’s a form of nourishment, but sometimes it’s just a way to have a bit of fun”.