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Some old paintings turn grey if kept in a dark place for long but their colours gradually come back to life if they are returned to daylight. Similarly, the hot mud that wells up from the ground in places around Iceland is grey but when it dries on the surface it displays a range of bright colours that gleam in the sunlight. Painters know that grey is not just some intermediary stage between white and black, light and darkness – something that could be said of any colour anyway. On the contrary, a good grey contains a number of colours in delicate balance and if you alter just one proportion the colours will appear. The grey fog is also pregnant with dangers and wonders and as we try to imagine them all, neurons fire in our brain – our grey matter.


The energy of grey is Ásdís Spanó’s subject. In this research she treads a thin line because grey has usually been called the colour of immobility and stagnation. The painter Kandinsky – an authority on this sort of thing – called it the colour of hopelessness and said it tended towards despair when it was too dark and offered little promise even when light. That’s the theory, anyway, but Goethe – himself the author of works on colour – said that all theory was grey while the tree of life is green. So it is with Ásdís Spanó’s paintings: From her grey surfaces bloom the most unexpected forms and hues of colour. The chemicals from which she mixes her greys are transformed when they dry in reaction to each other, to the air and to light. The result is often like an explosion or an eruption, energy exploding from grey indifferent nothingness.


In this way, Ásdís Spanó tackles vast questions in her paintings, questions that will echo in the viewer’s mind. They are questions about the relation of rest and movement, living matter and formal though, chaos and discipline. These paintings hang by a thread, suspended between creation and destruction, and the artists has set herself the difficult task of fostering their chemical eruptions while at the same time containing them within the field of the paintings. When successful, they can trigger similar explosions in the mid of the viewer and new thoughts will be born in the grey monotony of his quotidian world.


Jón Proppé, critic and curator

Near Freezing Point
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