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Name: Sóley Ragnarsdóttir
Instagram: @soleygendary
Profession: Visual artist

Please introduce yourself and tell us about what you do

My name is Sóley Ragnarsdóttir. I am a painter, but I have a sculptural approach to painting, and my works often draw inspiration and materials from my immediate environment. My family moved from Iceland to Denmark when I was a child, and since then I have lived in many different places, including Sønderborg, Frankfurt, and Berlin. In the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, I had to leave my home in Berlin to settle in Thy, Northern Jutland.

My new life on the west coast of Denmark has influenced my paintings and my first solo exhibition, titled Organizing Principles, which just opened at O—Overgaden in Christianshavn. The ocean has entered the images and sculptures of the exhibition: The large eye mobiles are made from the same material as surfboards and boats, while seashells, fishing ropes, amber, and stones from the coast peek out from most surfaces.

Could you explain more about how being a woman has affected your career? And what has been the most challenging aspect of being a female artist?

As a female painter, I have heard a surprisingly large number of comments that, in different ways, reproduce a clichéd or traditional expectation of female and male painters; for example, if a woman makes large-scale paintings, she is often commended for being daring. It is well intentioned, but it reveals that this is not something that is expected from a woman, only because of her gender.

If you look at statistics on the number of females, versus male, artists whose work is being exhibited and purchased at institutions and art galleries, the figures are discouraging. The difference here is clear, and I’m glad that the issue is being brought into focus more and more. I have also experienced being invited to participate in a group exhibition only when the curators realized that they were lacking female names for the show, which wasn’t looking good for them.

So, in different ways, I feel that my sex is pointed out to me in my position as an artist. But I also have to say that I feel very privileged because of the fact that I am a white person coming from a background with, for example, the support and resources of my family standing behind me. I do think it is very important to talk about women as a minority in the art world, but we must remember that there are minorities who form much smaller groups than “females.” I hope that we can move our attention to these groups also.

Can you name some other female artists who inspire you, and why?

I was educated as a painter at the Städelschule in Frankfurt, Germany, where I studied under Amy Sillman and Monika Bear. The two of them inevitably became great role models for me. When studying at the academy, I also got to know the works of artists such as the Abstract Expressionist artists Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, and Joan Mitchell. Right now, I am following the great works of Laura Owens, Rochelle Feinstein, Charline von Heyl, Julia Chiang, and Vivian Suter, to mention just a few! From the Danish art scene, I am looking to Jeannette Ehlers, Sif Itona Westerberg, and Ursula Reuter Christensen; three very different but extremely interesting artists.

What would you like people to notice in your artworks?

I have put a large amount of time into my works, which is perhaps most visible in the numerous small dots creating the decorative patterns that cover most of the paintings, the custom-made wallpaper, and my sculptures made from napkins. The eyes are formed and cut from the material that surfers use to create their boards, and for the entire summer, my dad and I stood in a workshop in Thy carving and polishing this foamy, dusty material again and again. It was a mess! By forming these sculptures, myself and by sitting over them when doing the decorations, I think that a certain intimacy is put into the artworks, which I hope you can sense. Perhaps they could even be some kind of reminder of trying to slow down the tempo a bit, in general.

When visiting my new exhibition at O—Overgaden, I also hope that you get a sense of living near the ocean. So many different categories and lives comes together here and somehow unite; for the fishermen, the ocean is a workplace, for the surfers, it is a playground, and for those hunting for amber, it is a treasure chest. We don’t have to look at life as something defined by separate categories.

Sóley Ragnarsdóttir’s exhibition Organizing Principles is on view at O—Overgaden, Christianhavn until 31 December. Free admission to all exhibitions.

Image 1 Credit: Anders Sune Berg, Image 2 Credit: John Calude Maier, Image 3 Credit: Anders Sune Berg, Image 4 Credit: Anders Sune Berg, Image 5 Credit: Neven Allgeier, Image 6 Credit: Joon Yeon Park, Image 7 Credit: Anders Sune Berg