Introducing Icelandic visual artist Ingimar Einarsson, whose ongoing project The Capital Series is currently on show in London. Einarrson has been exploring Europe for the last couple of years, with a mission to document modern architectural landmarks in European capital cities in a visually enticing way. These may be buildings that we are familiar with but we might not immediately recognise. The artworks are digitally transformed from photographs utilising repeated collages in a visual sequence that morphs into geometric art.
Where did your inspiration for The Capital Series come from?
I did a smaller version of this project at Chelsea College of Art and Design for my BA degree show. I worked with three buildings in different cities – London, Las Vegas and Shanghai – using the timezone differences as a narrative. When I graduated in 2011, I wanted to create a project that was big enough to make a lasting impression but small enough that I could do on my own, and this seemed to be an ideal progression.
What was the first city you visited and how did things progress from there?
I started this project when I was living in London but Lisbon was the first city I actually travelled to. I photographed all the 26 cities in one go back in 2011 (except for London which I had shot back in 2009 and created the work in 2011) and I came home three days before Christmas after being on the road since the middle of September. I took a month off and then started going through all the images, based out of my studio here in Reykjavik.
How do you choose the landmarks in each city to focus on?
It depends really, it can vary from city to city. For Reykjavik, I knew I was going to use Harpa (the concert hall and conference venue, featured in Mark here), so I just needed to select the right angle. However, for example Luxembourg, I shot almost all of the buildings in Kirchberg but ended up using one of the The European Court of Justice twin towers – it just visually made sense to use that one.
What is your artistic process?
When I have selected the building I am going to work with, I use Photoshop to cut out the negative space around it so I just have the facade of the building and nothing else. The next step is to create a 80 x 60 cm black document, which was the original print size of the series (although later most of them changed to 80 x 80 cm), from then on I start the repetition process. It's basically all arranged by hand and each collage is made out of hundreds of layers of the same building. This process can take some time. What I am really trying to do is just create a visual sequence of that form that works, if that makes sense.
So you seek a unique yet harmonious rhythm for every city's landmark?
It's a bit like playing around on a piano; you know some keys that work well together and some don't. Here the only rule is that I am using that one specific building to create a visual sequence, and the only challenge at this stage is to make it work as a visual composition. I tend to work on specific city/work for a couple of days and then move on to another one and wait and see if I can get a fresh angle on it later.
Sounds like a time-consuming process indeed!
I had a good 6 months of just being in front of the computer everyday, trying to finish all the 26 pieces. Every time I changed something major in the work I saved it, so I ended having 10–50 different versions of each city. I personally find it better to understand what the final 'work' looks like when it's printed out. So I print them out in A3 size just to see if they make sense and then I might tweak some of the dimensions.
Did you follow a specific route around Europe, or was it more ad hoc?
I kind of worked my way from left to right, started in west (Lisbon) and worked my way east. It was also a budget thing, I was trying to use the Interrail ticket system as much as I could.
Do you have a favourite out of the cities you visited in this project?
No, not really they were all equally fun – and difficult – at the same time to make.
Any future jaunts outside Europe you would like to take?
I think all the places will be interesting, like Astana, Ankara, Yerevan and Chișinău.
Do you already have plans for future projects/series?
I still have probably a year and half left of this project, so no there is nothing else on at the moment.
City of Residence Reykjavik, Iceland
Education BA Fine Art from Chelsea College of Art and Design, London (2011); exchange student at China Academy of Art, Hangzhou (2009)
Motto Never give up
Favourite quote ‘Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t’ Bill Nye
Best advice received You should just keep going doing what you are doing, and just keep pushing it forward; I got that advice from my friend the photographer James Harris. It’s very simple but it's true.
Best tip for artists Don’t stop making work after art school; try to keep a studio with friends and keep going. Just focus on your own thing and do it for yourself. Talk to everybody and try to connect with as many people as you can. It's cool to be on Twitter and FB but don't spend all your time looking at other people's work – it won't make you a better artist, working hard in your studio will.
Three things every artist needs A good studio to work in, more time (usually!) and the right materials
Newest addition to your studio I just received Utopia by Thomas More as a gift
First artist that inspired you Wassily Kandinsky
Einarsson's current exhibition is on show at the Icelandic Embassy in London and viewings are by apointment only.
Images courtesy of the artist