Anna Jóelsdóttir


Current Paintings
heima?/home? |  horizon  |  42°N 66°N
Mylar Paintings

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Artletter by Paul Klein, Nov. 1, 2012

Chicago Tribune, Friday, October 28, 2011, sec 5 cover

New City, August 6, 2009

Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago
Aug 03

Review: Anna Joelsdottir/ZG Gallery

There’s a gee-whiz element in the art of Anna Joelsdottir. Her current exhibition, “The Dandelions Are Over,” takes a step beyond previous works, which have evolved in series and often develop around negative space. Now, here, we find explosions of color, activated and covering entire canvases with mystical landscapes and abstractions.

Joelsdottir’s centerpiece, a quasi-sculpture installation, “Flood,” is a lurching, plunging avalanche of mixed media on joined pieces of mylar. Its intense splashes of yellows, tangerines and grays are unpredictable, and the work, with its stained-glass effect, refuses to lie at ease. Twenty-four-by-eleven feet from ceiling to floor, it drapes, gathers at points, and rolls across the upper wall, living dragon-like on the edge of chaos, while another disconnected, daring nine-foot work leaps and hangs across the room.

“When I came to Zg to install, I had decided to use the mylar in the front gallery and somehow work from the windows and ceiling making use of the changing light,” Joelsdottir recalls. Alone to fit mood and space into her system she “pushed a pin into the first sheet between the two windows. As the piece grew and began to take shape, I began to understand what it was I was trying to get at, and the title became ‘Flood.’”

A fairytale appears at work here among four canvases, each medium-sized in acrylic, ink and pencil. An additional six small mylar pieces borrow from “Flood,” capturing its translucent effect and color. Those works meet Joelsdottir’s ambitious efforts at transcending language and cultures via her paints, yet they are best served by their copious notes of the complex main piece. (Jeffery McNary)

Through August 15 at ZG Gallery, 300 W.

Art Letter, Review by Paul Klein, July 10, 2009

Art Letter (7/10/09)

There’s something special and new while also old and familiar about Anna Jóelsdóttir’s art, opening tonight at Zg Gallery. Dividing her time between her native Iceland and Chicago there is a unique perspective in her work that melds Chicago influences with global forces.  Sometimes I’m reminded of facets of Joan Mitchell in her art and sometimes her linear quality is reminiscent of Cy Twombly, but I find him pretentious and Anna accessible. There’s a love of art and process here. Jóelsdóttir spent 18 months making the painting that cascades from the windows, drawing and painting on both sides of the vellum - and it isn’t for sale.  It’s just a prototype.  She’s good and getting better and I already own one.


"flood," installation at Zg Gallery, mixed media on mylar.

"the dandelions are over," mixed media on canvas over panel, 58" x 70"

flavorpill CHI | NYC | SF | LA | London         October 10 - 16, 2006

Cultural Stimuli in CHI
Issue 108:
 askew flavor

Anna Jóelsdóttir: "heima? / home?" New Paintings and Installation
Anna Jóelsdóttir's stunning paintings feature bold, hard-edged stripes against loose, scribbling abstractions, adding dynamic structure to explosions of chaos against a blank, neutral background. This exhibition comprises several mixed-media series, including a few on distinctive oval canvases. Born in Iceland, Jóelsdóttir started painting in earnest after moving to Chicago in the '90s. Her works are richly layered investigations of longing for her native country, as well as nuanced studies of the contrasts between order and chaos, reason and faith, nature and technology. (AM)

Chicago Reader, September 5, 2006

Finding Order in Chaos
By Fred Camper
September 15, 2006

Heima? / Home? #5

Anna Joelsdottir                    
Rob Warner (portrait)

Anna Joelsdottir
Through 10/14
Zg, 300 W. Superior

she had a hearing impairment when she was in her mid-30s, in about 1982. She was having dinner at home in Reykjavik, Iceland, and her husband asked one of their kids to turn off a game-playing device because of its annoying sound. She couldn’t hear it. Tests revealed that she had a problem with high-frequency sounds, possibly a lifelong condition. “It explained a lot of things,” she says. From an early age, and without realizing she was doing it, she’d been reading lips. She’d long disliked large social gatherings—and came to think it was because it was hard for her to understand voices in a crowd. That struggle to discover ordered communication within cacophony is one of the influences on her recent work at Zg, seductively complex paintings composed of orderly stripes and extremely intricate, almost clotted line drawings.

As a girl Joelsdottir worked in her family’s greenhouses, a source for her paintings’ planes of pale green and gray; she says these are also the colors of the Icelandic land and sky. Her art may be influenced too by several years of teaching young children in Iceland. “They would draw scribbles and explain what was happening. Kids have this wonderful imagination that’s usually suppressed by the time they grow up. When I went to school, teachers would say, ‘That’s just a bad scribble—throw it out.’ But in it is a kind of hidden adventure, something the child sees and knows. I really identified with the kids, but I still had no idea that I wanted to make art myself.”


Soon after discovering her hearing problem, Joelsdottir was going through a divorce and enrolled in an art therapy class, where she made some work showing women with animals or with a “male lying in the corner, inactive or dead.” She says the process “helped me find some meaning in the chaos of my life,” but she didn’t pursue art seriously until she moved to Chicago with her second husband in 1992. She started by attending art classes for free at National-Louis University, where he taught. Later, taking figure drawing and painting at the School of the Art Institute, she’d come home and create abstractions based on her drawings of the models. She received an MFA from SAIC in 2002. In her first two years she experimented, she says. Then, the day after 9/11, she went to her studio. “I wanted to use this horror energy to transform all those terrible feelings I was having,” she says. “I took a canvas and made horizontal stripes all across it. I had no idea why. At the bottom I added tiny broken lines, the chaos of something lying there.” Soon most of her work had similar elements: both stripes and less orderly drawings, in pen and paint, derived from the tiny broken lines.

“The first way I understood the stripes in my work was as having to do with logic, rationality, and predictability, a given path or direction,” Joelsdottir says. “Some have sharp bends, and I see those as violent. After finishing the stripes, I begin to work on the drawing, which comes more naturally for me.” In Heima? / Home? #2 several straight bands resemble two-toned roadways, with “center lines” dividing gray from green, while snaking through the white space are jagged, spidery networks of fine lines and colors. Heima? / Home? #5-#11 are small oval canvases marked with thick black lines between light green and gray fields while other areas contain organic shapes made up of fine lines. Seven Sticks on Pedestal consists of seven long, uniformly shaped square rods standing on end, covered with seemingly chaotic colors and lines. With her hearing impairment, Joelsdottir says, “I’m always guessing, filling in information. If you look at my work, there’s a white part, nothingness, which is quiet, and then there are fragmented drawings that the viewer has to assemble into some kind of meaning. This is a pattern in my life, making meaning out of fragments.”


The Start of New Art
Watching the Colors Change this Fall.
Monday, August 28, 2006 by Joanne Hinkel

Anna Jóelsdóttir: “Heima? / Home?"
Zg Gallery
Through October 14; opening September 8, 5-8 p.m.

While the West Loop boasts a more exciting art party atmosphere, there are several reasons to make it to River North as well on opening night. Zg Gallery's new show tops that list of reasons. Anna Jóelsdóttir's solo show features mixed media on panel paintings mix up expectations of what abstract paintings are in a cool, electrifying way. Colors zigzag in jagged lines through explosive color variations, always against a background of white nothingness.  Jóelsdóttir moved to Chicago from Iceland years ago, but is able to negotiate her longing for home, through pen and paintbrush, through articulating the movements and shapes of volcanoes, glaciers and mountains that she misses from her native land in paintings

Event: Anna Joelsdottir: "heima? / home?" New Paintings & Installation Zg Gallery
   9/8/2006 - 10/14/2006
Time:   Opening Reception:
Friday, September 8, 5:30-8pm

Artists' Talk:
Saturday, October 7th, 12pm
        300 W. Superior St.
Chicago, IL 60654

Anna Joelsdottir's paintings are inspired by the dramatic landscapes and striking contrasts of her beloved homeland (Iceland) and her adopted country (USA).

Joelsdottir's paintings are tightly wound compositions of minutely drawn details, zipping bolts of solid color and trajectory lines rendered on a stark white ground. The results are fractured topographies of cartographic and structural forms, combined with gestures suggesting turbulence and released energy that imply both natural landscapes & urban architectural forms, where order and chaos are forced to exist on the same picture plane.

The addition of ink drawings to her paintings, express "both controlled and chaotic fragments of interrupted lines, structures, signs and symbols." These "fragments move, search, connect, disconnect and disguise. They distort vision, interrupt time and echo space like our memories do." 
Born in Iceland, Anna Joelsdottir received her M.F.A. at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her B.Ed. at the University Teachers College of Iceland. She has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, ASI Art Museum in Reykjavik, Iceland and at the Hafnarborg Institute in Iceland. This will be Joelsdottir's first solo exhibition with Zg Gallery.

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300 W. Superior St.
Chicago, IL 60654

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