"I am an expressionistic landscape painter" | Icelandic artist Shoplifter | Louisiana Channel

“It’s like an exploded rainbow!” Meet Icelandic artist Shoplifter and her colourful landscapes of hair. “I realized that I am an expressionistic landscape painter.”

Shoplifter creates so-called Nervescapes – artificial spaces and landscapes. “I like to make environments that surround and embrace you. We all have hair and are obsessed with it. It has a child-like playfulness about it. It’s almost like walking into a children’s book. Playfulness and humour play a big part in it.”

Shoplifter grew up in Iceland but has been based in New York for more than 25 years. “When as a student I thought about myself in Europe, I saw it in black and white. When I saw myself in New York, I saw it in colour. There are so many different cultures here, it’s everything else but monochrome.”

“What I am trying to accomplish is a place that people can enter, space out in, and be bathed in its colours. It brings so much joy! It’s like light therapy. Maybe it has something to do with Iceland and growing up in the darkness.”

“I am a product of pop culture. It’s impossible not to be affected by the colours and the texture. It’s unifying and therapeutic. Colours are therapeutic. And I like that my work is popular. We artists should not make work to be exclusive.”

Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir (b. 1969) alias Shoplifter is one of Iceland’s leading contemporary artists, based in New York. Working with both synthetic and natural hair, her sculptures, murals, and site-specific installations explore themes of vanity, self-image, fashion, beauty, and popular myth. For Shoplifter, hair is the ultimate thread that grows from our body. Hair is an original, creative fibre, a way for people to distinguish themselves as individuals, and often an art form. Humour plays a large role in her life and work, sometimes subtly, but at other times taking over.

Shoplifter represented Iceland at the Venice Biennale in 2019 and her installation Chromo Sapiens opened at the Icelandic Pavilion in May 2019 in Venice, Italy. The installation later travelled to Iceland opening at the Reykjavik Art Museum in January 2020.

Other recent work includes solo exhibitions at Kulturhuset Stadsteatern in Stockholm, Sweden (2020), The Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia (2020), Kiasma – The Finnish National Gallery (2019), the National Gallery of Iceland (2017), the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles (2017) and the Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art in Australia (2016). Notable projects and awards include her large window installation created in collaboration with art collective assume vivid astro focus (avaf) for MoMA, Museum of Modern Art in New York (2008), The Nordic Award in Textiles, and The Prince Eugen Medal for artistic achievement from the King and Royal Crown of Sweden (2011).

Shoplifter was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner in connection with her exhibition Nervescape IX at Nordatlantens Brygge in Copenhagen, Denmark in August 2021.

Camera: Rasmus Quistgaard
Edited by Jarl Therkelsen Kaldan
Produced by Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2021

Supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet and C.L. Davids Fond og Samling

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