Iceland in Agnes’s Shoes: painting a journey

Agnes' Shoes by Kendrea Rhodes
Agnes’ Shoes original oil painting on canvas by ©2018 Kendrea Rhodes for hART’s  In These Shoes exhibition, Adelaide Fringe Festival 2018.
Hannah Kent and Burial Rites

Agnes’s Shoes was inspired by the journey of author, Hannah Kent, culminating in her debut novel ‘Burial Rites’. In 1830, Agnes Magnúsdóttir was the last person to be executed in Iceland. Hannah stepped into her shoes and through poignant storytelling portrays common human traits of prejudice, love and subservience.

Hannah Kent stepped into Agnes’s shoes and through poignant storytelling portrays common human traits of prejudice, love and subservience

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. Agnes slowly drip fed her story to Tóti, which is represented in this painting by the dripping blues and greens.

Kendrea Rhodes and Agnes’s Shoes

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.

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.

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.

Kornsá, the farm of District Officer Jón Jónsson, can be seen nestled in the valley, surrounded by a cluster of hills called Vatnsdalshólar … on the western side of the hillocks is ƿristapar, the site of Agnes’s execution …

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.

 

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