Self portraits, text work, 2013 (originally exhibited 2008 – 2012).
Photographs, paper. 

The group exhibition Morphing, curated by Kristin Scheving in the Nordic House, Reykjavik, marked the end of a lengthy travel for the Identity Series. The series were a part of a Nordic exhibition for two years (2013 – 2015) and travelled through the Scandinavian countries, until finally arriving in Iceland. Jona Hlif’s contribution to the exhibition was to present for the first time the three self-portraits as a whole, after originally presenting each piece with a text at three separate exhibitions in 2008, 2010 and 2012.

The first work, Red, shows Jona Hlif coloured with red facial paint, with dry fish in her mouth. The accompanying text work deals with desires or fantasies. In the second work, Blue, and third, Yellow, facial paint motive from the first is repeated, but with different colors: blue and yellow. Both works are also accompanied by cryptic text works, one regarding the uselessness of a revolution and the other reports that ‘yellow’ is ‘the new black’. As with the first self-portrait, an item is included in the second and third portraits. In the second one the artist carries a crown made of margarine paper and in the final one black liquorice laces come out of her mouth, in a similar fashion to the dry fish in Red.

The repetition of the facial-paint form in self-portraits, with items and ground colors in all pictures, obviously suggests connections between the works. However, each work is also connected to previous exhibitions and motives related to each exhibition. These exhibitions vary in subject matter and style, ranging from feminine experience to meditations on the nature of messages in art work and modern media. In light of the years in which each portrait is taken, it is tempting to read them as a developmental phase for the artist from being young into becoming more secure and experienced. At the same time, when read together, the images also bring with them what seems to be a search for identity. Perhaps, this cycle of works has completed the search – perhaps it will remain an ongoing project.

The work is owned by the National Gallery of Iceland.

Yellow, 2012. Self-portrait, photograph. Photo credit: Hugi Hlynsson. Text work.
Blue, 2010. Self-portrait, photograph. Photo credit: Bernhard K. Ingimundarson. Text work.
Red, 2008. Self-portrait, photograph. Photo credit: Gísli Dúa. Text work.