Agnes’ Shoes is inspired by the journey of author, Hannah Kent, who researched Agnes Magnúsdóttir—the last person to be executed in Iceland (1830)—for her debut novel, ‘Burial Rites’.
Hannah bestows posthumous empowerment on Agnes by suggesting possible reasons for her crime: Reverand Tóti is compelled to understand Agnes while attempting to save her soul before her execution, allowing her to drip fed her story to him—represented in this painting by the dripping blues and greens.
After reading Burial Rites and starting on my own historical fiction writer’s journey, I realised the power and importance of the sense of place. Iceland had become a place in my mind: vivid, stark, cold and astounding. Never mind that I had not physically been there. The thought of Iceland lives on in my memory, right next to thoughts of places that I have visited. This does not make the journey any more or less tangible.
While creating the painting, I played an audiobook of Burial Rites to remind me of the initial inspiration the novel held. It did not disappoint; I was deliriously lost in the ‘undermind’ of a painter’s world. A place of meditation and channeling, where thoughts and actions are delivered to the canvas and never really owned by the artist. Accouterments of time, born in the moment.
The abstract landscape depicts the Vatnsdalur Valley in Northern Iceland, where Agnes is forced to spend her last days. Kornsá, the farm of District Officer Jón Jónsson, can be seen nestled in the valley, surrounded by a cluster of hills called Vatnsdalshólar. In chapter five of Burial Rites, Reverand Tóti rides into the valley, greeted by the same landscape. On the western side of the hillocks is ƿristapar, the site of Agnes’s execution and grave-marker.
Cool colours were deliberately chosen to convey the cold, dark winters in Iceland. The greys elicit a sense of dread that Agnes may have felt as she was ignored, abused, condemned and silenced.
On Exhibition for the Adelaide Fringe Festival 2018
Agnes’s Shoes, an original oil painting by Kendrea Rhodes, was on exhibition in March at the Lobethal Woollen Mill in South Australia. Curated by h.ART (www.hillsart.com.au) for the ‘In These Shoes’ exhibition during the Adelaide Fringe Festival 2018.