This week, fresh from her visit to Reykjavik’s Design March, assistant editor Liv Siddall shares some thoughts on Iceland’s creative community, and suggests that we could maybe learn a thing or two. As ever, you can add your thoughts using the discussion thread below.
I have spent the last four days in Iceland which has a population of a fairly minuscule 320,000. In the windy, blue-skied capital city of Reykjavik, the artistic community is thriving — from small studios in old harbour warehouses, to the breathtaking creative hub that is the Harpa building, there is simply no shortage of spaces filled with keen, artistic minds. In cities bursting at the seams with millions of residents, there is never a shortage of often incredible creative activity knocking around, but it’s usually approached in a slightly different way.
In urban environments, many choose the artistic pathway for financial or even fame-hungry reasons.
Making artwork in a big city is basically like standing on a chair and going “look at meeee!” to a room full of people until they all turn around, which is not necessarily a bad way of going about things. In Iceland, with less cut-throat competition and far fewer people doing similar things as them, young artists are really only making work for the sheer joy of creating and doing it with far less pressure.
Their working environment is also unlike that of a major city; little Reykjavik is surrounded by enormous snow-topped mountains, electric blue seas and vast expanses of empty land, encouraging their work to be influenced by nature in a way that I have never come across before. Almost every piece of work I saw in the four days of being in Iceland was, in some way, inspired by the natural world, and that was fascinating.
So how important is the city you live in when you’re trying to make work? Is it better to spend your career in a healthy but very, very small community of artists or trying your luck in the grit and thrill of an enormous city? Seeing the nature of these working environments, and the serenity and happiness of the artists in Iceland, I think I’d personally be tempted to go with the former.