Peter Roux

by Ryan Salinetti

Peter Roux was first featured on The Nice Niche in January, 2013....

I have so many questions regarding your recent residency in Iceland... But I can't seem to get past, "So, you went to Iceland...." -- Please tell us about your journey.....

My residency took place at The Baer Art Center, a very small visual art program located in northern Iceland,  The area is remote, about 5 hours north of Reykjavik by car.  The closest town is Hofsos, a small fishing village with a population of about 150.  I was awarded one of only 10 residency spots given each year at Baer to artists from around the world—five for the month of June, and five for July of each calendar year.  So, I was among four other artists from different parts of the world, for about 29 days total.  The other artists hailed from Denmark, Germany, Japan and Seattle.  It is an extremely small program, and as a result very competitive.

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The only residency requirement was to create work.  Each artist was supplied with a well-lit private studio space and an attached private sleeping residence, and fed all meals (which were wonderful: a combination of traditional Icelandic cuisine and comfort foods, all created by an in-house chef!)  Additionally, regularly-planned excursions to different locations/destinations/sites of interest were offered, most of which were hosted by the Baer Art Center director, Steinunn Jonsdottir.  On the final full day of the month-long residency, we five artists hung a show of work created during the month, and the one-evening event was well-attended by over 200 local residents (many of whom came a far distance to see the exhibit).

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I began my journey by spending a few days in Reykjavik, just prior to traveling to Baer.  Once at Baer, I remained in that area until the end of the month, when I returned to Reykjavik and flew home to Boston.  

Iceland holds a beautiful, but stark, landscape. Very few trees.  Muted colors, rocky soil, and majestic mountains that start at your feet.  Glaciers populate the country in specific spots, but also lush green farmland is a norm during the warmer months.  In June, the temp averages about 50 F, and the sun never fully sets.  As a result, I probably slept about 3 hours per night...yet never felt truly fatigued (that is, until I arrived home, when my body clock saw night and I slept for four days straight).  All of the artist residents would find themselves working at odd hours, our minds thinking it was sometime in the afternoon....even at 2am.  It was a bit surreal, and wonderfully new.

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The Art Center is located on a large working horse farm.  The ocean borders the farm on one side, mountains on the other.  We faced Greenland to the north. Two-thirds of the Icelandic population of 320,000 live in and around Reykjavik, so the area where we were seemed to have more horses and sheep than people.

The people: a bit quiet and reserved at first, but authentically warm when approached. One of the friendliest places I've ever visited.  Most everyone speaks English.  Wonderful contemporary culture- visually, musically.

I spent my days much like this:  wake up sometime around 7, step into the studio to work after grabbing coffee and breakfast from the lounge area at the end of the building, then break around 12:30 and walk over to the main house for a communal dinner meal.  After the meal, back to my studio for more work, and a long walk or hike somewhere in the area to break up the studio time (sometimes these would last the remainder of the day). More studio, a light communal dinner around 7pm, some laptop time, maybe more studio...then realizing it is 3 am and time for bed.  Then, up again at 7am and repeat.  On excursion days, we might be out for the entire day visiting other towns or places of interest, or just part of the varied.  We were a small enough group that we all could make improvised plans as we went. Steinunn, one of the kindest and most generous people I have ever met (particularly in the art world) was always so accommodating and helpful.  As you can imagine, we became like a small family.

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My work took two roads, as it always seems to do: landscape and abstracts.  The landscapes reflect the minimalism of the country- sparse, simple and direct- while the abstracts seemed to respond by wanting to be layered.  The body of work still continues in my studio.

My biggest visual take-away from the trip: the whiteness of the light in Iceland.  So north that the light seems cooler, whiter.  Colors looked a bit different.  It's a theme in this body of work...both landscape and abstract. The light back here at home is a harsh yellow by comparison.

The Art Center website:

My blog from the trip, where you can find more writing and work images:  


Currently up until Dec 19:  Hvitt Dagar: White Days at Fetherston Gallery, Seattle, Washington
Previous show:  A Fog of Spirits: work from an Iceland artist residency at Bryant Street Gallery, Palo Alto California

Upcoming:  January 2014 solos show at The Umstead Hotel Gallery in Cary, North Carolina