Four Colours

A square. A circle. A triangle. Fundamental shapes of geometry.
A seamless square, a perfect circle, a pure triangle. Which in conception or execution are
bound up with invention and precise tools. Which in reading or interpretation are bound up
with a particular culture and learned allusions. But which in personal experience in space
are not bound up with anything but perception. The perception of each person individually,
on their own grounds and in their own place, in their natural, imperfect body, in all their
natural, fallible humanity.
The Festival of Sacred Arts exhibition this year reaches back through the centuries. Back to
the time when sight was not yet enthroned on its pinnacle of eminence, back to the time
when other senses like hearing and touch were still the basis of our perception and
understanding of the world. Back to the time when human interaction was built on talk and
the listening ear rather than the written text. To the time when our contact with the world
was framed within three-dimensional, material space. But here we also touch on the magic
of science and the motive force of pure geometry in the inexorable gravitation of visual
The artist Finnbogi Pétursson thinks a square, constructs a square. He thinks a circle,
constructs a circle. The artist makes five squares. He makes two circles. Puts them up at
right angles, arranges them in a circle. The artist positions his shapes in two buildings, at
three locations, and so conjures up (abstractly) a triangle between them. Which in itself calls
forth a particular mental effect, a particular force – a perfectly delineated, unimpeachable
form, a clear reading.
At first sight these are simple works. The pieces in Hallgrímskirkja are on the one hand
square sheets of metal set up on a wall surface in the square-shaped vestibule and on the
other a circular steel crown hung from the ceiling of the nave which stretches up into the
infinite with the arched lines of the roof, and in Ásmundarsalur across the road a square
form arranged in a large ring on the floor under the watchful eye of a metal plate on the end
wall of the asymmetrical space.
But all is not what it seems. Over and beyond the pure form of material in space the artist
adds intangible features culled from the realms of sound. Into the church nave he intrudes a
low whistling, a cough, random babble or quivering silence through almost invisible
microphones hidden in the circular crown high above people’s head. In the vestibule he
feeds hypnotically the metal’s own frequency with dwarf-sized pickups on the back of the
square plates and calls up an insistent wobbling tone from the guts of the material. The
sound acquires its eventual form from the wide expanse of the space framed in by the
encompassing form of the building – captured, amplified, and so disseminated through the
celestial sphere obliquely onto the concrete walls of the houses, obliquely onto the
cityscape of the surrounding area over into the low-key space of the gallery across the road.
The visual interface of the works, of squares as a circle, misses its footing, retreats before

another expression – an intangible listening framed within an open circle in the middle of
the floor, far away from the source of the actual sound.
But still all is not what it seems. Over and beyond the material and sound that occupies the
space of a particular location and traces it up before the listening ear in a different location,
the artist also applies colours whose origins lie in the local landscape of the city outside the
church and gallery. Everyday colours from the exteriors of houses which, just like the voices
of people in the church, are captured and distilled on a square surface in a square space
referring back to the many varied voices of the residents of the city, personal voices of
metal-clad buildings in human society. For whatever reason the colours are the same and
have been chosen long long ago to validate the four seasons of the church year, distil them
into a red colour and green, white and mauve which, unlike the houses of the city, are
infused with symbolic meaning, laden with intellectual allusions to a particular culture, a
particular plan and understanding of the image of the world.
Four colours, originating in the shared public space of the city. Four colours, originating in
human society. And then one more. On a single metal sheet that stands outside the church,
inside a gallery with a watchful eye on those who venture here, who allow their curiosity to
entice them here across the street and step inside the circle, close their eyes and tune their
ears. The fifth colour is steel-grey, in reference to the colour most often used on the metal-
clad buildings of the city these days. Steel-grey, calm, practical. Free from intellectual
associations and symbolic reference except to the earth-bound life in the houses of the city.
Possibly the more emotive in reality, as the sound inside the circle in the middle of the floor
of the hall of the gallery comes direct from the guts of the church, both babble and whistle
and whirring silence. Silence that is never absolute, since the void of the nave has its own
internal sound frequency. Just as the human body has its own internal frequency, unlike any
other, but coloured by living among others, communication, conversation and corporeal
The artist thinks geometric shapes. He constructs pure forms in material – a square, a circle,
a triangle – that carry symbolic allusions in the cultural history of the visual arts. But he
thinks no less the intangible perception of sound, which he captures and manipulates as if it
were material, but material that cannot be grasped with the eyes, only with the listening
ear, man’s actual location in space, both encompassing and inside each individual.
Two houses of the spirit, each in its way, imbue space with wonder. A fixed magnitude
becomes infinite.

- Guja Dogg Hauksdottir, 2019