Exhibition | Disko Bay        Goethe Institute | Rome |  8.10 -27.10.2022

Disko Bay by Olaf Wipperfürth

// Artist statement

Abstract impressionism and environmental mutation


This series is named after the western coastal region of Greenland, Disko Bay - an area known for its masses of floating icebergs calving from the inland glacier ice field into the sea fjord near Ilulissat. The first humans arrived in Greenland around 2500 BC, though evidence suggests that Greenland was unknown to Europeans until the 10th century, when Icelandic Vikings settled on its uninhabited southwestern coast. Since their arrival, the list of explorers has grown long. In summer 2019, I traveled there to take photographs for an ongoing series on mountains and relief. Passing by the drifting giant icebergs, it is difficult to comprehend that they are about to melt like ice cubes in a glass of water; the act of witnessing the ecological fragmentation of climate change up-close opened the door to another approach in my work. The first explorers must have seen this part of the world like I did when I took my first photographs. The floating landscapes of these moving giants in their monochrome setting were purely sublime - but as I later discovered, they were difficult to describe with photography alone. This difficulty drove me to further mutate my photographic prints - adding free-floating spontaneous forms and layers of abstraction with paint.
Here, Disko Bay takes place: halfway between photography and painting, through multiple layers of photographic transformations by photographing, repainting and photographing again. I constantly aim to reach a certain point of dimensional shift, a certain kind of absence; a metamorphosis through imagination. Perhaps I am celebrating this very moment when the image becomes - with one drop of paint - something else, something singular. The original landscape transforms into a more mystical, hidden place.

Abstract geo-environmental protection

One could read this work as a gesture of repairing and conservation, a protective veil draped over the slowly melting icebergs. Through this intervention with paint, the landscape reflects its natural, unique fragility in a different way. I see a close relation between this fragility and the uniqueness of abstract brush movement. We actually start seeing through this process of hiding. In some of the works, the original photograph nearly or completely disappears; in parts the paint intervention shows new landscapes and singularity. I learned that each iceberg had its own personality; they did not let me work on them always in the same way. Every image needed to be seen individually, like persons, and the melting lines that appear when they slowly lift from the water leave graphic marks in their sides, like scars.

The vanishing point of memory

As an artist I’m interested in ephemeral and hidden spaces, and the memory that places possess. The nebulous ghostly paintings take the landscape into abstraction, touching on questions of losing and forgetting: losing memories that vaporize into the void. The melting of the arctic ice sheets mirrors the complex and catastrophic changes in atmospheric and oceanic circulation and the stability of the Earth's crust. Ice is the geological memory of our planet’s history and development. As the ice vanishes, we lose this memory. This work aims to draw awareness to this fragile environment and the disappearance of incarnated memories.

I am of course aware that expressing geopolitical consciousness through art is not enough for change on a bigger scale. But using art as a voice and platform for ecological themes does matter. Art contributes to the geopolitical relevance of acting accordingly before the melting, the collapse, and vaporization of memory..


Disko Bay N° 3, 2020-2022,
150x110cm. Painting and reflexion, photographic print on Hahnemühle RagFineart paper 309 grm, acrylic paint and watercolor mounted on dibond,  framed

Disko Bay N° 2, 2019-2022,
150x110cm. Painting with sun reflexion, photographic print on Hahnemühle RagFineart paper 309 grm, acrylic paint and watercolor, mounted on dibond,  framed

Disko Bay N° 1, 2019-2022,
110x150cm. Photographic print on Hahnemühle RagFineart paper 309 grm, acrylic paint, mounted on dibond,  framed.

Disko Bay N° 4, 2019-2022,
110x165cm. Photographic print on Hahnemühle RagFineart paper 309 grm, acrylic paint mounted on dibond,  framed.

Disko Bay N° 6 , 2019-2022,
80x120cm.Photographic print on Hahnemühle RagFineart paper 309 grm, acrylic paint, mounted on dibond

Disko Bay N° 5, 2019-2022,
80x120cm, Photographic print on Hahnemühle RagFineart paper 309 grm, acrylic paint, mounted on dibond, 

Disko Bay N° 7 , 2019 - 2022.
80 x 120 cm,. Acrylic paint , Aquarelle Hahnemühle Museum Rag Fine art 309 grm, mounted on dibond, 

Disko Bay N° 8, 2019 - 2022
100 x 75 cm, Acrylic paint on Fine art matt paper 280grm, mounted on dibond

Disko Bay N° 11, 2019
20 x 26 cm in 40 x 50 frame, Acrylic paint on Hahnemühle Museum Etching 350grm

Disko Bay N° 10 , Painting and reflexion’ 2021
20 x 26 cm in 40 x 50 frame, Acrylic paint on Hahnemühle Museum Etching 350grm

Disko Bay N° 14 , 2019
20 x 26 cm in 40 x 50 frame, Acrylic paint on Hahnemühle Museum Etching 350grm

Disko Bay N° 12 , 2019
20 x 26 cm in 40 x 50 frame, Acrylic paint on Hahnemühle Museum Etching 350grm

Disko Bay N° 58, 2022
40 x 50 cm in 40 x 50 frame, Acrylic paint on Hahnemühle Museum Etching 350grm

Disko Bay N° 26 , 2019 -2022
20 x 26 cm in 40 x 50 frame, Acrylic paint on Japanese Fine art matt paper 190grm in passepertout

Disko Bay N° 22 , 2021
20 x 26 cm in 40 x 50 frame, Acrylic paint on Fine art matt paper 280grm in passepertout

Disko Bay N° 18 , 2021
20 x 26 cm in 40 x 50 frame, Acrylic paint on Fine art matt paper 280grm in passepertout.

Disko Bay N° 19 , 2021
20 x 26 cm in 40 x 50 frame, Acrylic paint on Fine art matt paper 280grm in passepertout

Disko Bay N° 23 , 2021
20 x 26 cm in 40 x 50 frame, Acrylic paint on Fine art matt paper 280grm in passepertout

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