Cadences of Line and Color

1 Feb. - 13 April


This exhibition showcases works of art in the spirit of “visual music.” Since the early twentieth century, artists in search of abstract forms of expression have sought inspiration in music. The pioneers of abstract painting consciously looked to musical aesthetics in order to develop a new kind of painting without reference to external reality. In due course, in the 1920s, avant-garde artists began experimenting with the new possibilities of film technology to create visual music. Since then, with the advent of video, and increasingly sophisticated means for working with music and images, artists have been able to develop this art form even further, to make works in the spirit of visual music without requiring a team of technicians to do so. Thus the concept of visual music can be traced through art history from the beginning of the twentieth century until the present day.

The exhibition is made up of three parts: First, the historical background to the art form is established through  its main pioneers – Viking Eggeling, Thomas Wilfred, Oskar Fischinger and John and James Whitney. The second part of the exhibition consists of new installation, Trajectories, that combines video work by Sigurður Guðjónsson and an electronic/piano composition by Anna Þorvaldsdóttir, Decore (aurae) by the artist Dodda Maggý and works by the American artist Jeremy Blake. The third and final section curated by Jón Proppé, consists of about forty smaller works that illustrate the relationship between music and abstract art in Iceland.

The exhibition is organized in collaboration with the Reykjavik Centre for Visual Music and will open at the inaugural Reykjavik Visual Music Festival, which will be held at the Harpa Concert Hall from January 30–February 2, 2014 ( The new work by Sigurður Guðjónsson and Anna Þorvaldsdóttir was commissioned specifically for the festival by the Reykjavik Centre for Visual Music. The exhibition and the festival are funded by Friðrik Steinn Kristjánsson through the Silfurberg Art Fund.

Curators: Hafþór Yngvason, Yean Fee Quay and Jón Proppé.


About the artists
Swedish artist Viking Eggeling (1880–1925) is renowned for his participation in various radical artistic and political movements in the 1910s and 20s. He lived in Paris, the epicentre of modernism, from 1911-17, and then Zurich, where he took part in Dadaist performance art at the Cabaret Voltaire. In his work he aspired to develop abstract forms that could serve as a universal visual vocabulary for movement. A pioneer of experimental abstract film, Eggeling used stop-motion photography to animate series of drawings. His Symphonie diagonale (1924) had a revolutionary impact on experimental film.

Danish-American artist Thomas Wilfred (1889–1968) was a pioneer and creator of Lumia, the art of light, which was an entirely new art form in the beginning of the twentieth century.  He developed a complex instrument, which he called a clavilux, to project coloured imagery, instead of just colour fields like earlier instruments.  Wilfred used the clavilux to perform his many compositions of light, colour, and form; they consist of a very wide range of light intensity and a broad spectrum of delicate colours and shapes.  Wilfred regarded Lumia as a completely independent and new art form and performed his compositions in complete silence.   Later in his career he developed individual instruments, each of which displayed a single composition.  Digital representations of some of the 18 extant compositions are on display here.  As technology has improved, the digital representations give a better approximation to Wilfred’s analog art.  But the exquisite, sublime beauty of Wilfred’s work can still be fully experienced only when viewing his works in person.
In the spirit of abstract expressionism, the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1951 exhibited three of his works alongside paintings by Pollock, Rothko and Willem de Kooning.  But again, because Wilfred thought of Lumia as an independent, separate art form, he did not regard his work as part of abstract expressionist painting, even though he was working contemporaneously with many of those painters.
German-American artist Oskar Fischinger (1900–1967), one of the main protagonists in the history of animation and abstract cinema, is a pioneer of visual music. In the 1920s, in his famous series Studies, he created a new abstract film language with highly complex animation. Fischinger’s animated lines and shapes move in smooth transitions, parallel to and in harmony with music and rhythms. In 1936, Paramount Pictures brought Fischinger to Hollywood, where his unique style influenced Disney’s animated feature Fantasia. More importantly, Fischinger’s foresights in film as an art form continue to influence many artists, animators and filmmakers to this day.

Brothers John (1917–95) and James Whitney (1921–82) are well known for their innovative work in film: John was a composer and James a filmmaker, and together they did pioneering work with abstract film, including Twenty-Four Variations on an Original Theme, based on Arnold Schoenberg’s twelve-tone system. A sequence made by John for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo is a renowned example of the expressive power of abstract music.

US artist Jeremy Blake (1971–2007) is best known for his video works and his collaborations with filmmakers and musicians. His works were selected for the Whitney Biennial in New York in 2000, 2002 and 2004.

Dodda Maggý (b.1981) completed her MFA degree from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen in 2009. Alongside her MFA studies she also pursued studies in Nordic Sound Art (a two-year MFA programme jointly organised by the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts,  Malmö Art Academy, Oslo National Academy of the Arts and Trondheim Academy of Fine Art), in which she focussed on the connection between music and visual art.

Sigurdur Gudjónsson (b. 1975) makes videos where image, sound, and space form a seamless whole.The distant world of these works draws the viewer toward its core, through a near-bodily experience of the interplay of image and sound with the setting. His work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions around the world, in such institutions as the National Gallery of Iceland, Reykjavík Art Museum, Hafnarborg, Iceland, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Germany, Arario Gallery, Beijing, Liverpool Biennial, Tromsø Kunstforening, Norway,  Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Ursula Blickle Videoarchiv Kunsthalle Vienna, Kling & Bang Gallery and Bergen Kunsthall Norway.

Anna Þorvaldsdóttir (b.1977)  music tends to portray a flowing world of sounds with an enigmatic lyrical atmosphere. Her works have been nominated and awarded on many occasions. Her chamber orchestra piece Hrim was awarded Composition of the Year at the Icelandic Music Awards 2011, as well as the International Music Prize for Excellence in Composition 2011. At the Icelandic Music Awards 2012, Anna was awarded Composer of the Year and her debut album Rhízōma was awarded Classical/Contemporary Album of the Year. Anna is the recipient of the prestige Nordic Council Music Prize 2012 for her work Dreaming.

Get catalogue as pdf.

Wednesday 29. january – Thursday 30. January

Workshops in collaboration with the Reykjavík Visual Music Festival.

Saturday 22. February 3 p.m.
Curator‘s talk with Jón Proppé.

Saturday 15 March 3 p.m.
Artist‘s talk with Dodda Maggý.

Saturday 5 April 3 p.m.
Artists‘ talk with Sigurður Guðjónsson and Anna Þorvaldsdóttir.

Sunday 6 April
Symposium in connection with the exhibition.




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