Nes Artist Residency, Skagaströnd, Iceland

From January - March 2018 I lived in a rural town called Skagaströnd as part of Nes Artist Residency. Just four or five months prior, I had absolutely no idea what an artist residency was, and doubt I had ever even heard of one.

The spooky thing is (and other Nes artists shared this experience, too), I can't even remember how I came across Nes, or quite when I decided to apply. The opportunity just somehow landed in my lap and I went for it, of course I had no idea at the time that it would be a springboard to the most amazing and transformative two months of my life.

At the time of applying I was drawing or painting almost daily, but with no real direction. At that point I was focusing on illustration and small-scale stuff. It seems crazy now but at the time I didn't think I could create 'fine art', so limited myself to smaller work. But anyway, more on that later. 

After getting the email that my application to Nes had been accepted, the gut-churning combination of excitement and panic set in. Lovely. I immediately worried about how I would every possibly navigate the Icelandic public transport system, Googled the risk of spontaneous polar bear attack (zero), and planned how I would tell family and friends that I was moving to rural Iceland without them believing I'd hit peak mental-breakdown.

On New Years Day I flew out of London and within a few hours I was in Reykjavik. I managed to catch the correct bus transfer from the airport, order a taxi from the bus station and navigate my way around to eventually arrive at my hotel where I was staying for one night. Might not sound like a big deal but it was my first time properly travelling alone!

 

After staying the night in Reykjavik (and failing miserably to acclimatize to the Arctic climate - it didn't get light until about eleven am), it was soon time to head to the Northwest. After catching the but at nine am from Mjódd Station in Reykjavik, it was a solid three and a half hours to Blönduós - the relatively large town in the North, where I would meet a few other artists and get one final shuttle bus to our temporary home in Skagaströnd.

Image cred. - guidetoiceland.is

I'm not sure what I really expected from the Icelandic landscape - all I do know is that the reality surpassed all my expectations. I'd never seen such an expanse of uninterrupted landscape. Almost immediately I felt so far removed from my previous lifestyle. I'd gone from living in a tiny flat in Manchester, to staring out at mountains hundreds if not thousands of meters high, framed by white planes of snow and a few horses.

What I realise now is that the brain space I had reserved for thinking about what to have for dinner, worrying about bills or council tax and meticulously planning my weekend, dispersed and evaporated, making way for a whole load of creative impulses and ideas to flood in. I can't stress enough how important the environment was in this newly-discovered potential. I've heard people say that your circumstances are all about perception, but I really believe that removing yourself from your ordinary life and jumping to a completely new experience, alters your consciousness, and only then are you able to access thoughts and ideas that you never would've had back home.