Life,  Reading

A Dialogue with Nature: How Iceland has Inspired Roni Horn’s Multifaceted Exploration of Identity, Perception and Place Over Four Decades

Ronnie Horn: Born in New York, USA in 1955, now works and lives in New York and Reykjavik. In 1978, he received a master’s degree in fine arts from Yale University. In his artistic career spanning more than forty years, he has explored themes such as nature and human beings, gender, identity, and the relationship between subject and object through paintings, photography, installations, sculptures, and literary works.

  Be forewarned that this is not a serious academic retrospective. At the dialogue before the opening on June 7, the protagonist Roni Horn (Roni Horn) with a white cropped head and a black suit sat on the far right, opening his mouth, which was a surprisingly soft voice under his tough appearance. She explained again and again with some embarrassment, putting aside the concepts of creation and craftsmanship, what she tried to share on her trip to China was her personal life experience so far (since the 1980s), “We just want you to know what happened inside , for the way I work, you don’t need to know anything. You just need to consider whether you enjoy it, just feel it, don’t try to explain or understand everything”.
  As a result, few people in the auditorium were obedient. Randomly approach a three-person team, and you can hear a well-thought-out interpretation. The ears are full of English, and everyone seems to know something. This person answers to the collage full of lines: No, this is not a map, but a combination of words created by the artist according to his mood; Say you know what, she stayed here for two full weeks in order to personally install the exhibition! … Flowing gossip, it seems that before entering the arena, everyone secretly received a small note with different information for them to spread.
  Putting the hearsay aside for a while, some news that has been confirmed by many parties can be seen with the naked eye. For example, like her previous exhibitions, this exhibition is also directly titled by the artist’s name; for example, she insists on using natural light. According to Shao Shu, the organizer of the exhibition and the executive director of the Art Museum (Shunde District, Foshan City), after trying several lights, they found that any artificial lights were not suitable for Ronnie’s brightly colored works that can reflect the surrounding environment. “Because artificial light is stable at the same color temperature, only natural light can give you emotions and highlight the color and shape of each work.” Shao Shu, who knows the venue best, is in charge of the curation of this exhibition
  . He glanced out of the window and said, “It was raining today, but it was sunny yesterday. Every day, the audience can have a completely different and unpredictable perspective and experience.” The He Art Museum designed by Tadao Ando is a 5 The multi-level space, the glass transparent facade welcomes daylight from all angles, and it is undoubtedly a perfect space for Ronnie Horn, who firmly believes that “artificial light can destroy the complexity of sculpture”.
  During the conversation, Shao Shu repeatedly stated modestly and slightly nervously that He Art Museum, which has only been established for three years, is “very young”, “We are trying to break the rules and create something new. I would think that we are a film company. Company, I am the director of that movie, and Ronnie is the main actor in this story.”
  After hearing this, Ronnie immediately broke down the stage in a low voice: “Please forgive me, I think the situation is just the opposite.” There was a burst of relief from the audience Laughter, everyone understands, this is not the kind of mutual compliments, go through the motions according to the script, the discussion finally ended with Shao Shu’s “admit defeat”: “I have to correct my words, so Ronnie is the director, I just help you run to do it Producer of everything.”
  After viewing the entire exhibition, which includes more than fifty works, it will be clear that this statement is not exaggerated. The exhibition almost completely follows her will. The arrangement and hanging position of the works all reveal traces of personal command, like two pictures named “Dead Owl” side by side, a group of people crowded Wondering in front: “Is this exactly the same? Is there any subtle difference? Why put two identical ones?” If the
  artist has witnessed this scene, he will probably be quite relieved that his “trick has succeeded”. She likes to use replicated objects to explore the concept of unity, hoping that the paired things can trigger the audience to think differently. Sometimes she juxtaposes them closely, and other times, as in the platonic series of metal sculptures called Pair Objects that she has created since the 1980s, she arranges them to lie far apart in the gallery. far corner.
  Due to the elimination of uniqueness in the simple reproduction process, individuals who are clearly the same have dual identities naturally, which creates a kind of contradictory doubt. Ronnie’s love for this double play is not only reflected in the poster title of the exhibition. In a very representative personal photo, she is sitting leisurely on the roof, holding a wine bottle in her right hand and pouring wine with her left hand. In jeans, different shoes, no underwear, open blazer topless, “I have so-called masculinity and so-called feminine qualities, I want both, I like both. I Really don’t care if people call me a man or a woman.”

  ”I like ambiguity, I like contradictions—it’s exciting.” This philosophy dominates almost all of her work. At the end of the last century, she took a series (15) of close-up photos of the Thames, titled “Still Water” (Still Water). The seemingly calm Thames is actually the final destination of many suicides.
  Ronnie once said in an interview that water is an important source of inspiration for her creation, “Water is everything and nothing, extremely simple and rich in form.” In her prestigious series “Water Double” (Water Double) The glass is shaped like a giant ice cube that is melting, so that the same material has both fluid and solid states, giving people the illusion of gazing at the water.
  In the mid-1990s, Ronnie Horn began a series of solid cast glass sculptures. She first spent six years developing an annealing process that allowed the highly purified glass to retain its viscosity; adding neodymium and cobalt to it, resulting in mesmerizing shades of purple and blue, the sculptures shone like giant gemstones .
  The molten glass is slowly poured into molds more than a meter high (typically over three weeks) and then placed in an annealing oven at more than 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (about 1,371 degrees Celsius) to cool without cracking. This process is much longer, and with the assistance of a large number of computer technologies, it will take half a year.

  The rough and transparent texture of the mold itself will be left around and at the bottom of the final sculpture, in sharp contrast to the fire-polished upper part of the sculpture, like a water surface full of tension and slightly curved. She has been fascinated by this paradox ever since learning that glass is actually a supercold liquid chemically. In other words, if you heat it up enough, it turns into a liquid. Glass, which is both liquid and solid visually, shares multiple identities with the creators who use it as a proposition.
  The venues used to display these mammoth installations are always natural or deliberately created an “ultra-simplified” sense of emptiness according to Ronnie’s request, “because there is nothing there, so you can see everything”. She repeatedly considered the environment, and from the moment she started her work, she simultaneously thought about how to organize their relationship with the audience and the venue.
  The colorful glass sculptures, as Ronnie’s solo exhibitions continue to move around the world, have so far been reflected in the Whitney Museum of American Art, Hauser & Wirth Gallery in Hong Kong, Center Pompidou in Paris, Tate Modern in London, Spain Views from the windows of venues such as the Centro Botín Arts and Culture Center.
  Born and raised in New York, but in Ronnie’s eyes, her artistic career seems to be more comfortable in Europe. Her photography, sculpture, painting and performance have long found a resonance audience there – the first solo exhibition was held in Munich in 1980 . She has been blunt: “The American way of thinking about things like culture is that it has to be about profit. Full stop, end of story. But I’ve found that in Europe, I’m respected just because I’m an artist, and there There is a place for me.”
  Her first overseas trip in her life was also in Europe. In 1975, Ronnie, who had just graduated from university, traveled to Iceland with his girlfriend. Originally, like many backpackers, they chose this transit point, which was a must for cheap flights from the United States to Europe, as their destination just for the sake of cheapness. Attracted and fascinated by the unstable climate, she did not expect that the sky, wind and light that she usually takes for granted can be so refreshing and impressive, and the weather is full of life like wild animals.
  A few years later, Ronnie Horn was awarded the Alice Kimball Traveling Scholarship by Yale University. She used the graduate school grant to return to Iceland by herself on a dirt bike modified for long-distance travel, and roamed the island for six months. Carry a tent with candles, sleeping bags and a stove in the car, and camp anywhere when you are tired.
  There are no no-go zones, no restrictions, no apparent obstruction between public and private land, and even many roads are not even paved. It was a trip destined to be lonely. She felt like she could go anywhere, but the exposure to inclement weather, wild winds and the loud whine of the two-stroke engine made the ride laborious and slow again.
  The month of May, when she arrived, was later considered the coldest and wettest season on record for the island. The dirt road is not graded and follows the natural contours of the landscape, with local undulations greatly slowing down lateral progress. Wrapped in wild weather, between water and light, between birds and wind, between rocks and weather, between sand, seals, feathers and puffins, Ronnie has his hands full.

Demonstrate Iceland’s geography, climate and culture

  Unforgettable experiences hardly require precipitation, and the rampage inspires Ronnie’s creative inspiration. Early on, she envisioned compiling an inventory of rocks and geological fragments, because every single stone here is so remarkable.
  In 1982, with the permission of the Director of the National Lighthouse Keeper, she moved into an early 20th-century lighthouse on the cliffs of Dyrhólaey on the south coast. When the lights were automated, the lighthouse fell into disuse, and for decades, as Ronnie would later describe in his poem, became an uninhabited unhierarchical transparent place of time and space.   She reveled in this almost isolated place. A lonely country outside the forces of globalization, “in a sense it is like a maze, a place big enough to get lost and small enough to find oneself.” This almost uneroded territory had a strong attraction for her . Theoretically, there are many islands like Iceland in the United States of her birth, but most of them have been impacted in one way or another, and over time, man-made changes have caused an island to lose its essential character. Iceland is completely different. It has not changed from the beginning of its existence to the time when Ronnie came into contact with it. It is natural and pure, and it has been like a day for tens of thousands of years. It can still bring people a young and unique experience. By the early 1990s, Iceland had become a quarry. Sometimes travel seems closer to hunting or mining. She began to create paintings, sculptures and photographs based on the experience provided by the island in the early days, and gradually discovered that the symbolic meaning of the existence of this land even exceeded its practical significance. “Iceland is a force, a force that has taken over me.”   Since Ronnie Horn first went to Iceland as a Yale art graduate, she has often returned there to live and create over the past 40 years , as a unique place of inspiration and media. Sometimes it’s just going to live for a few months with no purpose.

  These journeys have infiltrated into her creations in various ways, and she has established her own studio in Iceland logically, skillfully displaying Iceland’s geography, geology, climate and culture through different works. According to some critics, these works are “beautiful but inevitably empty”. Some people also saw what she wanted to express, the unique natural environment of the land she loves—Iceland—and the state of empty life.
  ”Here, you can establish a connection with yourself without any intermediary.”
  At the largest solo exhibition in Asia so far opened at He Art Museum in early June, many of Ronnie Horn’s creations closely related to Iceland were displayed.
  For example, the “To Place” series of volumes, which began in the mid-1980s, “is like an encyclopedia, based on my lifelong relationship with the island. The first volume, “Life of Bravado,” was published in 1990, and it currently has 10 volumes. .I found, paradoxically, that “to Place” became less and less complete with each new book. These books included natural landscapes, ice, rocks, whirlpools, wild birds, and people. Related photographs that explore themes of identity, nature, and humanity.”
  For example, “You Are the Weather,” which consists of 100 close-up photographs of the same young woman, took six weeks , capturing these moments in different thermal pools in various weathers in Iceland. Ronnie says she locks in a sense of androgyny and eroticism through the images. The variable chemistry of identities evoked through themes such as water and weather; the instability of perception, explored in repetitive movements, juxtapositions and pairings.
  There is also the most eye-catching glass sculpture “Double Water” standing in multiple exhibition halls. People in cool clothes come and go, pass by, and stare at those calm and deep surfaces. The reflections of subtropical plants are constantly shaking, as if echoing the mysterious and gorgeous aurora, and the sharp outlines of tall buildings outside the windows are in harmony with the eternal ice of Iceland. Secretly matched. The natural power of contradictions and pulls becomes appropriate and clear under the freeze frame of artificial creation, which is probably the ultimate answer to Ronnie’s works.

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