Dagur Jóhannesson was born on a farm in the North of Iceland in March 1937, the second youngest of eight brothers and sisters. All the children were named after characters in the Nordic mythology. It was an isolated place with few inhabitants, but the landscape is and was very beautiful, a rugged land covered with mossy lava, pseudocraters, ponds, creeks and rivers. A kind of a remote wonderland where the imagination can play at will with bizarre shapes and forms.
Jóhannesson was home-schooled like other children in the valley; teachers traveled between the farms on foot or on skis in the wintertime, teaching the basics (reading, writing, arithmetic, history, grammar etc.) and also drawing. His father was a writer, teacher and a farmer and bought Icelandic and Danish magazines, richly decorated with drawings, often in bright colors, and Jóhannesson and his brothers and sisters read these magazines whenever they could. The magazines opened an exotic and captivating world for them. His father also carved small wooden figures, animals and birds.
Jóhannesson was an enthusiastic draughtsman but still only a teenager when his father died and more and more he had to shoulder the burden of the farming. His brothers and sisters moved away for work and study; one of his older brothers, Hringur, later became one of Iceland‘s most renowned painters.
Jóhannesson had a strong and palpable urge to create, and around the age of twenty he covered every inch of his room with paintings, some inspired by surrealism, others by cubism. He slept and dreamt inside a vast painting. But contrary to his siblings he didn’t fulfill his creative ambitions, he worked all his life – and still does as an octogenarian – as a farmer, although he never dreamt of becoming one.
He put aside his aspirations and destroyed all his works except four. Once in a while though he picks up his whittling knives and carves small wooden sculptures, abstract, non-figurative, enigmatic. His works that remain, still hang on the walls of his small farm, a testimony of substantial talent that never had the chance to blossom.
About the print:
Nr. 1, by Dagur Jóhannesson. Art Print: 50x70 cm/19.7x27.5 in. Published by Reykjavík Print, edition of 200. Ink on paper. Photographer: Pétur Jónasson. © Dagur Jóhannesson.