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The colour of truth is grey, said the French novelist André Gide. Where are your lovely little brown paintings, asks the mother of an artist, this is so grey?.

Iceland is substantiallypredominantly  grey, even as the dubious grey zone of truth and romantic interpretations tell us it is mostly green. The small lovely brownish paintings, the hints of soil and fertility, are hidden within violent stretches of a grey storm. These stretches attack us and allow no escape, take charge and change colours, undo old contexts and build new shapes, a landscape is born.


Geology tells us that erosion is a form of movement, departure, turbulence, metamorphosis – particles of soil that are pushed from one place to the next, ever changing, leaving ever new marks. If the outer forces of erosion would be solely in charge our surroundings would be entirely flat, like just another straight grey line on a canvas. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, ruptures and craters do not give in that easily, however, and violently compete with the wind, glaciers, rivers and the rest, creating an endless stream of disruption and dislocation. A tension that seeks equilibrium but never quite reaches a destination, is forever on the move.

The vision of Ásdís Spanó in her latest works has been shifted, moved from where it was before. Links with the past are clear and have not been entirely eroded, but the disruption is forceful and the strength of movement almost violent. The softness of brown, the small lovely tones of yesterday, gives in to aggressive grey winds that need space, lots of space. Just as the tension becomes more dramatic the straight layers and lines of the horizon also grow stronger, adding their own pull to the equation, not letting go. Erosion in one place makes for a new layer of equilibrium somewhere else.


The colour which so many have equated with dullness, stagnation, stand-still, neutrality becomes the colour of dislocation, movement, landscape, tension – the expression of a firm stand but not a stand-still. The seeking of truth becomes grey, the colour of expression.

The grey zone of our mental and cultural inner landscape is a place of tolerance, interpretation, freedom, a space where borders are unclear, walls are moved around and broken down, questions are brought to life. The grey colour of stagnation becomes the texture of change, the forces of nature become the inner strength of creation. The memory of a weathered grey stone becomes a site of longing for a green homeland, a painting on a wall.

Oil on canvas appears to be moving even after it has dried. We are placed in the midst of a mental erosion, a form of weathering which continues from one day to the next. We do not really know where we are.


I have always pictured Iceland as grey, beautifully grey, says Ásdís Spanó,and I still am not through with that colour of grey, it is still there within me. It is this peculiar feeling of having landed but still being up there in the midst of grey clouds.

We have arrived in Iceland but we are still in the skies as the grey dust of winter and the everyday, dolerite and asphalt, unclear thoughts and crawling glaciers creep up on us. The distinction between the inner and the outer are eroding, we are on the ground and yet we are not.

We are facing an abstract work of inner energy and simultaneously placed within a natural landscape or a city´s grey highways, we are facing flat horizontal lines of soil and simultaneously placed within the eye of the storm. We are watching a patch of oil on canvas as it moves and opens itself up to all kinds of readings, we are within the mind of someone else. We are walking through the grey zone of interpretation, the one wilderness that is still out there, the one that blossoms when harnessed.


We watch the paint randomly roll around by itself and yet we note the strokes of a small brush tending to detail, giving the coarse a touch of finesse. We watch as a violent drama unfolds in the hands of careful attention to accuracy, we meet someone who seeks peace and order and yet lets everything go. Grey can be green when placed within the grey zone of multilayered truths, anarchy is management.

Perhaps one of these days we will learn to appreciate the colour of grey as Ásdís Spanó invites us to. The colour of the ever-eroding truth in the shape of a hefty northern storm, sharing the same space as expression, interpretation, the carrier of change.

Believe those who are seeking the truth, said André Gide, doubt those who find it. The grey of today is only a resting place – a new form of erosion continues tomorrow.


Guðfríður Lilja Gretarsdótir

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