Hjalti Parelius is an Icelandic painter who focuses on painted collage. He uses comic elements and characters as well as known artworks from art history. So don’t be astonished if you see a painting of a lady from the 16th century as well as space shuttles.
“I’ve been fascinated with art for a long time, especially paintings. At my parent’s house the walls were covered with a good selection of paintings by Icelandic and Danish artists.”
Hjalti Parelius also got to know paintings by other artists when visiting art galleries. “I particularly remember the Picasso show in 1986 held at Kjarvalstaðir museum in Reykjavík. My parents took me with them and it really stuck with me.”
His original plan was to become a doctor. “I went to the university with that in mind but failed the first year.”
At twenty years old, he got a job in an ad agency that helped him with his portfolio so he could get into the Danish Design School where he studied graphic design.
Hjalti started painting for real when he lost his job as a graphic designer and 3D designer at an architectural studio. “The financial collapse was at fault. Most of the projects the studio had simply were cancelled or put on indefinite hold. I needed a way to keep busy so instead of letting depression get hold of me I decided I would have an art show at the Night Of Lights Festival in Reykjanesbær later that year.” That was in 2009. “I thought that if the show would be a flop, at least I had tried. The show became a hit and I began to see that it was a real possibility to make a living out of my hobby.”
The works of Hjalti have increased in complexity and magnitude over the years.
“My largest works are 300×200 cm and the largest I’ve done so far was a commission for Alvogen Iceland, an international pharmaceutical company based in Reykjavík. That piece is 280 cm tall and 14 m wide and took two years to finish.”
The Fibonacci spiral
Hjalti works with collage and cut-outs from magazines, comic books, old paintings and postcards. “It’s a technique that gives me enormous freedom, to reuse, and remix old content and images. It’s like a musician using a sampler in electronic music. I used to dabble in making electronic music and learned to use a sampler during that time. Using collage of elements seemed like the technique of choice for me. Using samples and cut-outs give me the chance to take material out of context and put it into a new narrative.
I usually find a focal point in the piece and then add more around it as a supporting role. For composition the Fibonacci spiral helps a lot to find the rhythm of the piece.
For his most recent works, Hjalti is moving away from comic books. “I find the need for something harder and more challenging as a painter. I’m a huge sci-fi geek and my new series is called the Future Series. There I combine old masters of classical paintings with sci-fi from the 60’s and 70’s. The result has a nostalgic feel. But they take much more time to paint than the comic pieces. The new series will début in Berlin later this year, probably in September or October. My dream is to have an opening in Los Angeles shortly after.”
One thing that has always remained in Hjalti’s works is strong use of color. Especially warm colors. “Somehow I rarely use green. I don’t know why I avoid it.”
Hjalti says his main problem for the last 2-3 years is that he can’t seem to build up a decent selection for a show since the artworks usually sold before he completes them. “At the moment there is a 6-12-month waiting list. Even now I have sold three paintings from the new series and I haven’t even started painting one of them.”
Photos courtesy of Hjalti Parelius
For more information visit parelius.is
Svava Jónsdóttir, who is Icelandic, has worked as a journalist for the past 23 years and has written three books. She has a BA-degree in Spanish and literature, a diploma in journalism, a teaching certification and a diploma in international relations. She is also a member of the board of the United Nations Association of Iceland. Her interests? Literature and music; she studied music for about a decade. And she likes to travel.
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