It’s easier to be an artist here

Iceland is attractive not only to the Polish people. Many, even from much warmer and nicer places, choose to live on this moody but wonderful island.

For unknowns reasons, I keep meeting all the most positive weirdos, whose stories are much stunning than mine. Although I haven’t met Mak Jürgen in person yet, we had one chat on-line and it clicked immediately. We contacted due to his exhibition “I miss the days chasing lights”, photography and poetry show in HART Hostel and Art Gallery in Wrocław. It started on the 22nd of March and will last untill the 5th of April. (This is Part 2 of the Interview with Mak Jürgen).

UT: Would you say that you don’t just take pictures, but a portrait of Icelandic lighthouses? Your own soul painted in this tiny piece of the Icelandic scenery?

This particular moment is very important. That’s also why I love photography, but I chose the analogue technique, though digital would have been closer to my education (laughter). You can take pictures of well-known waterfalls for hundreds of times, places you already know, like Kirkjufell. Those pictures you scroll on Instagram don’t make Iceland less beautiful, however I wanted to do different photography. When I go to the lighthouses, I absorb the surroundings: wind, rain. Once I went to the northernmost point of ‘inland’ Iceland. On that day, there was an orange alert in the south-east, but I thought it’s going to be fine in the north-east, it wasn’t. The road there was awful because of the weather, but shortly after I arrived, the rain stopped and the wind turned out not that bad. It was a very special moment. What I tried is to capture or reflect this feelings in photographs and words This is also where my poems come from. I take the phone, write down my thoughts and sometimes I like what I write, sometimes – back at home, I just think it’s not enough, but there is always the essence of what I lived this day.

Bilden kan innehålla: en eller flera personer, personer som står och inomhus
Z wystawy “I miss the days chasing lights” we Wrocławiu, źródło: ROK tímarit / magazyn

UT: Emotional comment to your particular state of mind in the particular time and particular moment. You write in English, although it’s usually easier to put feelings in words of a native language. How do you deal with that?

MJ: I would find it too complicated to write in Basque/Spanish and then translate. My life in Iceland is based on English – I use it at work, I use it in conversations with friends, I rarely use my native language apart from calls with family and friends or talks with Spaniards living here. But it is a part of my being here. It comes therefore naturally, of course it’s not the same, but I try to write how I can, I do my best to express myself. Also, I have some help, a friend in Akureyri who studied English literature and she plays a role of some sort of an editor. She proofreads, comments what I write.

UT: I bet you know about Icelandic-Basque relation from the past. Both nations were related with the sea, fishery. When in Iceland, do you feel like there is something alike between your two homes?

MJ: I feel the distance, although Iceland is my new home. Basque people, or Spanish people are of course different from the Icelanders: open, direct, sociable, friendly. In Basque Country, however, it is hard to cross the line of making friends, but then you become real friends. I feel something similar in Nordic countries is not the easiest connection between people, but I don’t mean they are cold or unfriendly – I had very welcoming hosts and friends in Akureyri – but they won’t make friendships with you at once neither. If I say that I’m a Basque, a lot of people, especially the old, would react “Ay yes, Baskelandi!” and it makes me so happy because usually people from Europe don’t know what the Basque Country is. Here, on Iceland, almost everyone knows. They tell the stories, they have connections.

UT: Getting back to Instagram pictures. On your Instagram you post mostly clouds and skies, almost no lighthouses.

MJ: That was another project. I wanted to take pictures of the skies every single day, not only in Iceland but also of other places, and make an exhibition/ a show about it. But this comes later. I have plenty of projects, I can’t just stop on one idea. As for a creative person, continuity is sometimes hard. I start many things in the same time and don’t finish many of them. But I hope one day I’ll get back to them.

UT: Many projects, many ideas. Are you up for collaborations? Do you know some Icelandic photographers you think you’d like to work with?

MJ: As an artist, I was never used to work with other photographers. I’d rather be a bit aside, I don’t want to be in the middle of attention neither. Some Icelanders are also difficult to work with, they are kind of moody (I wouldn’t say that) maybe instead; I’m not quite sure how the Icelandic art scene works. There was a professor, for example, who shown us his studio very vividly and openly, naturally, friendly. Then we went to an exhibition in the Photography School in Reykjavik, the feeling there was quite elitist and close. Some people became famous, others are just nice and just normal nice people, doing what they do, I would say that the latest is my kind and Icelanders sometimes are quite like that, something I really like. I don’t know entirely if I am an artist or a photographer. Too big words to say.

UT: Would you say that Iceland is the land of photographers? Some say it has special filters already, whether it’s colour or the fog, that make it so photogenic and beautiful that you can’t take a bad picture in Iceland. You are more a landscape photographer, not thus interested in “typical” views of Iceland. Is it so that Icelandic photographers are already fed up with all these postcards landscapes and they’d rather make documentary photos instead? To tell the story about the place? Lighthouses as a figure of solitude. There is only one lighthouse and nothing else usually on your pictures.

MJ: I think it’s about the light. This is what Iceland has special. From the very dark to the very bright. I don’t know if it’s a matter of the latitude, but Iceland is special, on pictures. Iceland taught me about the attitude: it doesn’t matter if you’re and artist or not, you take pictures of what you see. It’s easier to be an artist here. What I mean is that here the sentence “I’m an artist” seems to be easily pronounced; from my point of view or understanding an artistic expression and therefore the self-definition as an artist – compared with other places I’ve been to, in Iceland is just easier and more openly accepted. Iceland is very inspiring. from the ground to the skies.

UT: Is Iceland your home now?

I don’t think I’d end up living the rest of my live in my hometown (UT: in the Basque Country). Iceland had been my home before I ever stepped on this island, or at least that’s how I feel. And it’s not that I have any kind of rejection towards the Basque Country (or any other place) – quite the opposite. Usually you realise that you love a place only when you leave or lose it; I do love my homeland, it’s just a feeling, and I let myself guided by feelings a lot. It’s hard to say that I will stay here forever, but I miss Iceland every time I’m away for a while. The future is untold, but I can say one thing: at the moment it’s hard to imagine me leaving heima.

This is part 2. Click here for part 1 of the interview with Mak Jürgen.

Lighthouses are alive to me

Iceland is attractive not only to the Polish people. Many, even from much warmer and nicer places, choose to live on this moody but wonderful island.

For unknowns reasons, I keep meeting all the most positive weirdos, whose stories are much stunning than mine. Although I haven’t met Mak Jürgen in person yet, we had one chat on-line and it clicked immediately. We contacted due to his exhibition “I miss the days chasing lights”, photography and poetry show in HART Hostel and Art Gallery in Wrocław. It started on the 22nd of March and will last untill the 5th of April.

Utulę Thule: How was the vernissage?

Mak Jürgen: It was a bunch of people. More than I expected, kind of surprising. I thought that younger people might come, but not all of them were young. Maybe young in the inside, but definitely not from the outside! (laughter). I’d say around their 50-60s. Very nice.

UT: There are many Polish people interested in Iceland. Wrocław is especially close to Reykjavik, as both cities are partners. There are also many Wrocław inhabitants involved in a Polish-Icelandic “ROK” magazine. How did you end up here?

MJ: It was a friend’s initiative. Adrian Siegle is a good friend of mine, we met in Iceland. He is from Portugal, but have lived in Wrocław for about 10 years.

UT: Tell me something about the whole project. Why Iceland? I know it’s a cliché question, at the end people don’t usually need reasons to move there, because it’s just amazing.  Is there anything particular that stroke you?

MJ: Usually a lot of people ask me this question. Most of them are like: you come from Spain, where it’s so sunny and warm, many people want to live there, why Iceland then? Well, I come from the Basque Country, where it is not that hot as they think, of course not as cold as in Iceland either, but it was not the weather that brought me here (laughter). I have always been attracted by Nordic countries in general and Iceland in particular, so, one day I just took my car and I drove to Iceland,  I took the ferry from Hirtshals in Denmark to Seyðisfjörður. This was three years ago, since then I worked in different places, and after spending two years in Akureyri, I moved to Reykjavik in October.

Zdjęcie z wernisażu wystawy “I miss the days chasing lights”, źródło: ROK tímarit / magazyn. Drugi od prawej: Mak Jürgen.

UT: How did your artistic career start? You say you have been creative since you were a child, but you can’t just be an artist on Iceland. Everybody needs to have at least two professions there.

MJ: I’m a graphic designer. Of course you can’t just make a living with art here. There is a place in Reykjavik called Andrými, It’s not a creative/art place persé but arts and creativity are a part of it. It’s truly more like a social place, an open house available for any kind of activity or event, where everyone is welcome and whoever can join and develop their inquisitiveness on any field. From social help and participation till more actively anticapitalist/anticonsumist aims or more creative related initiatives. Is a lot of things and everybody who is involved can have their perception and definition of this place. In the house there are different workshops or ateliers and one of them is a darkroom where I started my advantage with photography.

UT: Yes, you’re not a professional photographer, you use very artistic technique: analogue. Did you get the inspiration in Andrými?

MJ:  I’m not a professional photographer but I rediscovered this media. I met a few friends and among them, Kordian, from somewhere between Katowice and Kraków, who is a former professor in the School of Photography in Kraków. He helped me, I learned a lot with him and with some other people that I’m grateful I’ve met in the dark room.

UT: So the project? Was it born in Reykjavik?

MJ: No, I had had the idea much earlier, I wanted to do it but didn’t have time at first. No real studio neither, so the project got a bit of stuck. I was travelling around Europe and the moment when I came back to Iceland, was when I got more and more inspired. Travelling, taking pictures and writing – all happened  in a very organic natural way. The idea grew and I started taking it more deeply and working on it. Finally, I realised that I gathered some material, so I thought of publishing a book – which became much of a longer project.

UT: As for now, it’s a collection of analogue pictures of lighthouses with some examples of your poetry, written by hand and developed just like photos. When will the book be ready then?

MJ: The book will hopefully get published by the end of the year.

UT: But taking pictures is a thing that people usually do on Iceland. You know, there are thousands of accounts on Instagram, people just want to take similar pictures, to have their own “postcards”. But you decided to take pictures of lighthouses, which is both unexpected and characteristic for the Icelandic landscape.

Both in visual and practical way, I think lighthouses are very Icelandic. We have them everywhere, we are used to them in towns, harbours, but in Iceland they seem very special. For me they have a poetic and metaphorical value. They can inspire in so many ways, and I tend to have very emotional attachment to them.

UT: So you don’t see them as one of millions, some random buildings outstanding from the Icelandic skyline? Do you then own your own, favourite one?

MJ: Each of them has different, but evenly intense impact on me. Depending on the moment or the day, the same one can reflect on my (or it’s me reflecting on them) different feelings or emotion. That is why lighthouses are alive to me.

This is part 1. Click here for part 2 of the interview with Mak Jürgen.

I miss the days chasing lights

W piątek 22 marca we wrocławskim HART (Hostel & Art) przy Rydygiera 25a odbędzie się wernisaż wystawy zdjęć i poezji Maka Jürgena.

Mak Jürgen urodził się w Kraju Basków, od trzech lat mieszka jednak w Islandii. Jego talent artystyczny przejawia się od dzieciństwa – najpierw interesował się rysunkiem i malarstwem, teraz głównie fotografią i pisaniem. Jego najnowszy projekt, Vitar, to “poszukiwanie światła i poznawanie samego siebie”.

Z materiałów prasowych do wystawy:

I Miss The Days Chasing Lights to wystawa będąca prezentacją procesu prowadzącego do opracowania książki zatytułowanej Vitar, która ukarze się jesienią. Pochodzące z języka islandzkiego słowo vitar oznacza latarnie morskie. W publikacji, i tym samym w ramach wystawy, autor, wykorzystując fotografię i poezję, eksploruje myśli i uczucia towarzyszące mu podczas licznych podróży wokół Islandii.

Podążając w poszukiwaniu latarni morskich, będących motywem przewodnim i inspiracją, Mak Jürgen, niejednokrotnie zmagając się z wymagającymi warunkami pogodowymi panującymi na wyspie, docierał w odległe miejsca pełne wyśnionych krajobrazów. W ten sposób stworzył zbiór fotografii i tekstów będących symbolicznym zapisem tych doświadczeń.

źródło: materiały prasowe, autor: Max Jürgen

Wszystkie przedstawione obrazy autor zarejestrował na negatywie i ręcznie wywołał. Wiersze zapisał odręcznie i podobnie jak fotografie przeniósł je na papier światłoczuły w ciemni fotograficznej.

Zastosowanie technik tradycyjnych i prezentacja twórczości wykonanej własnoręcznie umożliwia odbiorcom bliższe przyjrzenie się całemu procesowi, a tym samym duszy i umysłowi autora. W pracach Jürgena zobaczyć można jego zmagania z niedoskonałościami jak również dostrzec swoisty urok i emocjonalny wkład. Wszystko to podkreśla niepowtarzalność każdego wytworu i czyni projekt bardzo osobistym.

źródło: materiały prasowe, autor: Max Jürgen

W ramach wystawy autor prezentuje swoją pracę ze światłem i pokazuje odbiorcom znacznie więcej aniżeli tylko zbiór zdjęć.

Dzięki temu sposobowi przedstawienia projektu odbiorca może zobaczyć więcej, aniżeli zbiór fotografii zawieszonych na ścianie.

Enjoy the trip.

Wernisaż w najbliższy piątek 22 marca o 18:00, podczas którego będzie okazja poznać artystę i zadać mu pytania o jego twórczość i najnowszy projekt. Wystawa potrwa do 5 kwietnia.