Review :: 66 ° North @ Beatty Gallery

September 7th 2011


Iceland is the least populated and most isolated of all the Nordic countries. Founded by hermits and littered with volcanos, the geographically youthful island holds a certain captivating power. 13 different kind of elves, sea spirits, giants, the mysterious huldufolk (‘hidden people’) – you name it, Iceland has it, in spades. In fact, we love it so much, we’re sending some of our favourite musos over there to soak up its many and varied delights. I know, damn them right?

Still, all is not lost for those of us not lucky enough to be visionary musical talents. Right now, Paddington’s Beatty Gallery is bringing the Iceland to us, with a sumptuous collection of new work from photographer Paul Mallam, 66 ° North. Taken across Iceland’s haunting (and almost definitely haunted) fjordlands, valleys, moon-like plains and largely uninhabited centre, the images crystallize the isolated country’s famed mercurial light, it’s eerie and deserted landscapes.

The arresting quality of the series is simultaneously disorienting; the scenes seem to be moving away even as they draw us in. Perhaps it is due to the almost total absence of humanity; abandoned dirt roads, the remnants of old hotels, wonky power lines and lonesome ‘survival huts’ all seem to indicate life, and yet an intoxicating emptiness continues to dominate the collection.

For Mallam, there were surprising Australian resonances in the (ahem) icy land. The unforgiving climate, fringe- and coast-dwelling population, the insignificance of our fragile bodies in the face of nature’s blindness – these qualities give our two distant nations a shared spirit; that of the pioneer, the survivor, the other-worldly interior of the land. The photos on display here capture this bereft strength elegantly, the striking colours and sparse landscapes opening Iceland’s ragged beauty and inviting us to meander through them, albeit alone.

While it’s not exactly a trip to the real thing, it’s pretty damn close, and well worth a look for the pure aesthetic satisfaction alone. Resultant wanderlust guaranteed.

What: 66 ° North by Paul Mallam

Where: Beatty Gallery, 12 Mary Place, Paddington

When: 10a.m. – 5.30p.m. daily

How much: Free

Image courtesy of the artist.


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