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Pripyat | Hjörleifur Halldórsson
Rotunda Gallery
Opening: July 3, 2023 at 6 p.m.
On display: 3 – 30.07.2023

About the artistic attitude of Hjörleifur Halldórsson

Hjörleifur Halldórsson’s painting reflects his inner life and interest in specific social issues. Halldórsson knows that art cannot replace social science, philosophy, sociology, anthropology and political science, but it can contribute to social diagnosis. He does not illustrate scientific hypotheses and ideological manifestos, but expresses his subjective, independent opinions and feelings through painting.

When art serves to explore and deepen the subjectivity of the artist who creates it, it simultaneously serves and defends the subjectivity of every human being. One of Halldórsson’s responses in defense of the subjectivity of a particular person is the portrait of Swedish model Lena Forsén (2023), whose photo was cropped from Playboy spread in 1972 without her consent and for many years was the standard test image (Lena standard test image) used in the field of digital image processing.1 Halldórsson does not shy away from journalism in painting. He is able to visualize in symbolic form or in interesting iconographic terms what moves him and provokes a reaction. He often reacts to negative cultural stereotypes, such as the stereotype of masculinity, which he believes is the cause of the objectifying treatment of women (works Regina and Gunslinger).
Halldórsson was the first of the people I know to get involved in humanitarian aid operations on the Polish-Ukrainian border after Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Later, he and his wife Anna, supported refugees at the railway station in Poznan for several weeks. He was the one who brought Icelandic TV to Poland to launch a relief campaign in Iceland for Ukraine. At the same time, he was creating works on this war.2
Ethics as an essential element of creative motivation is not unique in art, so Halldórsson’s work may bring to mind many other artists. Art as a moral impulse is just as necessary as art as an aesthetic reaction. One does not exclude the other. Halldórsson is able to give iconographic, symbolic and aesthetic value to the physical matter of his works as well, when he introduces the matter of volcanic lava from Iceland into his paintings. In a sense, he enlarges his country… and combines different cultures in such a way that they enrich each other. In one of his paintings, created in reference to the war in Ukraine, Matejko’s Stańczyk appeared.3 I understand and share Halldórsson’s approach to the problem of historical memory, including respect for cemeteries, which he expressed in a painting account of an event at the war cemetery in Poznań (Park Cytadela / Conversation about memory) and criticized the inappropriate behavior of visitors to this necropolis. 
When conceptualizing painting, Halldórsson does not relativize the notion of form and is as concerned with the aesthetic layer as with the content and iconographic layer. An example of conceptualization is the painting Palette of the eye / Palette of the eye, which creates a diptych with the Lena painting. Conceptualization in this case consists in the interpretation of the digital image processing algorithms developed from the Lena standard. As the artist himself described it, “Instead of depicting the portrait in Cartesian coordinates, the image is warped to Fourier space using frequencies and phases of sinusoidal waves. This is similar in manner to how the eye itself functions; the rods and cones are activated by sinusoidal waves of light with different frequencies. The image is stripped of its previously attached classifications of sexism and feminism. It presents an unbiased representation of the portrait, evoking the idea that the full emotional palette and classifications are internally created”. Painting subjected to such conceptualization redefines itself in harmony with ethics and life, deepening our ability to empathize.
One of Halldórsson’s most artistically compelling achievements, in my opinion, is the series of cyanotypes Pripyat, dedicated to the city that fell victim to the Chornobyl nuclear power plant accident in 1986. In the works in this series, the form dominates the content and gives it a deeper and universal meaning (including in the current context of the war in Ukraine). In art, form is what first draws attention to itself.
I met Hjörleifur Halldórsson as a painting student, who turned out to be a Buddhist and an erudite man of extensive knowledge with a baggage of practical experience in fine arts, music, literature and science. He also turned out to be an engineer, computer scientist, social activist and also, as luck would have it, a boxing referee. All this accumulates perfectly in this remarkable man with an endearing personal culture.
Janusz Marciniak




Biographical note

Hjörleifur Halldórsson was born in Reykjavik Iceland in 1972. He moved from Iceland to Sweden at the age of 7 with his parents. He has a strong connection with Sweden where he later studied engineering (M.Sc.) at one of the most prestigious Technical Universities in Europe (KTH Royal Institute of Technology). Hjörleifur lived on and off in Sweden for 17 years. Both his children were born there.

Most of his adult life Hjörleifur has been working in the field of medical technology, in hospitals, medical imaging community, software engineering and governmental radiation safety.

As art has been a driving force in Hjörleifur’s life he decided in 2020 to change his course of life and dedicate it to arts. Hjörleifur is now currently living in Poznań with his wife, Anna, and studying at the department of Painting and Drawing at Magdalena Abakanowicz University of the Arts Poznań (UAP).

Information about selected exhibitions and artistic and social activities of Hjörleifur Halldórsson

2023: E-catalog of XII Painting Studio 2023:

2023: Finalist in the “Economy in the Ambalages of Economics 2023” poster competition, The Poznan University of Economics and Business.

2022: Participation in the project “24/02/2022: Against Russian Aggression in Ukraine”. Artists participating in this project include Gerhard Richter and Krzysztof Wodiczko. Link to the project:

2022: E-catalog of the XII Painting Studio 2022:

2022: Participation in the group exhibition “Słowa i obrazy dla Ukrainy / Слова й образи для України / Words and images for Ukraine”. Exhibition in the framework of cooperation between the Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Fine Arts in Wroclaw and the Magdalena Abakanowicz University of Arts in Poznan, Refektarz Gallery KOK in Krotoszyn. Link to catalog:

2022: Participation in an art auction organized by UAP for the benefit of artists from Ukraine.

2022: Participation in the realization of a reportage by Icelandic television about the assistance provided to refugees from Ukraine. Link to reportage:

2022: He and his wife Anna participated in the campaign to help refugees at the Polish-Ukrainian border and at the train station in Poznan and Warsaw. Anna and Hjörleifur provided an apartment for 4 refugee women from Ukraine. During Easter they were in Ukraine with humanitarian aid.

2021: Publication of the essay “Buddhism and Art” on the website of the XII UAP Painting Studio. Link:


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  • Author: o.petrenko
  • Published on: 21.06.2023, 09:06
  • Last edit: 21.06.2023, 09:06