I am coming slightly unhinged, everything is out of joint. It's all because of the sun. It has been a sleepless month, this June in Olafsfjordur, North Iceland, at the Listhus artist residency. The light of the sun on a foggy, overcast day, is constant all through the day and night. On a clear bright day time seems to stand still, only subtle clues to tell the hour. Nine pm, midnight, three am: white nights, with no darkness to frame the end of one day and the beginning of the next. This has been a unique experience, the Arctic summer, but I am exhausted by it.
It's a different kind of sleep -- fitful, not deep sleep, but shallow, illuminated by a pale light that filters through the eyelids. I sleep, and dream, but close to the surface of consciousness, and my dreams are thin and thready, suffused with a subconscious awareness of uncanny light when it ought to be dark. It is the strangest thing.
Without the clues of fading light, desire for sleep comes only through force of will. So one goes outside, walking in the midnight sun, and it is weird, beautiful. But freed from the natural boundaries that divide day from night one must at some arbitrary point say, OK, this day is now done, I have had my fill of this day. Eventually one must give in. We need sleep and immersion into the dark unconscious to start another day with renewed vitality.
This darkness deficiency is manifesting itself in my artwork, I think. I am working in black and white. In my new collages, deep black represents both earth and air. Black is stabilizing, and restful, and gives my eyes something to sink into. The ever present sunlight, especially from behind a veil of shifting fog and clouds, is finding expression in erasures, smudges and the shimmery grays of graphite.
This Friday, July 1, I will shift gears and begin a three week residency at the Snorrastofa, in Reykholt, West Iceland. A different kind of landscape, an area not dominated by mountains, but instead suffused with Saga stories. It will be an immersion into words and history. I wrote about this residency in a previous post. Click here for more.