It is about a 4.5 hour bus ride from Reykjavik to Skagaströnd. We departed at 9am and after two hours the horizon started to lighten, revealing backlit rugged mountains and great expanses of snow. It is difficult to understand perspective here because there is not much to compare the scale. Every once in a while there was a house tucked next to a mountain with a warm glow coming from lights in a window in the shape of a star. As the bus was about to turn into the town of Blönduós the snow began in a torrent. I am still not sure what that town looks like other than a few vague, dark shapes that I suppose must be houses and possibly shops. We pulled into a gas station where we disembarked. My husband, myself and three other ladies bound for the NES Artist Residency and a pile of snow-covered luggage. We had called the bus company ahead of time to arrange for a shuttle to pick us up and drive us the last 20 minutes of our journey to Skagaströnd. Two cars pulled up with a sign in their windows displaying the bus company’s symbol. The drivers were father and son. Again, I have no idea what is between these two towns as it was so white. I could not even see the car’s lights driving in front of us. As quickly as it started snowing, it stopped. We arrived at one of the houses of the residency. We will all be staying in this house, along with three other artists that will arrive later. Kerryn, co-director at the residency, met us at the front of the house and helped us in. There was a foot of snow to wade through to get to the door. It’s a big house, warm and cozy. We had a quick briefing and got settled in. I am still finding it hard to adjust to the daylight hours (or lack thereof). I feel like I have no proper sense of time anymore. We have been getting up when we wake up, eating when we are hungry and sleeping when we are tired–none of which is conventional. It is a strange thing. But I think that we will find a good rhythm soon. We spent the rest of the day settling into the house and then went for a couple walks around town. I am now very glad that we packed warmly. The roads were the only cleared areas and Kerryn said it is normal when it has snowed to walk on the roads. The cars will respect you. It is a small town of about 400 inhabitants. I should also mention that it is extremely windy here. All the time. Dark, windy and snowy. During the daylight though, there is a dramatic and rugged landscape of snow-covered mountains and an icy sea.
The next day I happily explored the studio space, which is a 3 minute walk from the house (although it took much longer as we picked our way across the icy roads and snow drifts). It is a large, open-concept studio space that used to be a fish factory for the port. A perfect place for the studio. And no, it doesn’t smell like fish at all! There were a few spaces to choose from and I settled myself in a nice space in the corner. I spent a very pleasant day in the studio with a few of the other residents. The weather here is incredible! Even inside you can feel it deep inside of you. The buildings are built strongly to withstand the intensity of the arctic winds. But that doesn’t block out the sounds. Powerful gusts that sound as though they would knock you over. The studio, as you could probably guess as it’s being an old fish factory, is built right next to the sea. I am in heaven!
While I am at the residency I will be working on a drawing project centred around the ocean and winter weather here. I will be incorporating elements of nature, allowing them to intervein and manipulate my work. I am not 100% sure exactly how this will look or how I will go about doing it… but that is part of the point of my project. To experiment! There will be some challenges though for sure as I will have to figure out how to tackle the cold weather. Right now my biggest challenge is to figure out how to safely access and collect seawater when it is so stormy and the water so rough. I’ll get back to you on that. =)