A Bloody Tradition – Whale Killing in Paintings by Mikines
People on the Faroe Islands have been killing whales for centuries, and the killing itself is marked by tradition and old customs. This is opposite to Fine Arts on the Faroe Islands, which started in the late 1920s. One of the most renowned artists from this generation is Sámal Joensen-Mikines. The lack of history of art on the Faroe Islands made him want to create a relation between old, traditional European art and new Faroese art. Mikines was especially fascinated by the Italian master Paolo Uccello (1397-1475) and his paintings of the Battle at San Romano. The Faroe Islands have not experienced war in the same way as larger countries in Europe, so one of the most dramatic events at these latitudes is whale killing. Mikines used this imagery to create a Faroese pendant to these old, traditional paintings. The whale killing itself is a dramatic scene – the ocean turns red with blood and the dead whales are lined up on the beach. Mikines’ paintings of whale killing became an important part of his career and Faroese art in general. Two of them are on display in the permanent collection at the National Gallery of the Faroe Islands.
The last decades there has been strong critique from the outside world. National heritage has been vandalized in opposition against the killing. This is something that the National Gallery has to consider: should the paintings be displayed, whilst constantly being on watch, or should they be taken down to protect them from danger. The presentation deals with this subject and how the National Gallery strives to find a durable solution to the problem.
Solveig Hanusardóttir Olsen is cand.mag. in history of Religions and MA in history of Art. She works as a curator at the National Gallery of the Faroe Islands where she arranges exhibitions and takes care of daily operations.
solveig at] art.fo / www.art.fo
Image:Sámal Joensen-Mikines I Grindadráp / Whale Killing I 1942 I Oil on canvas I Vejle Kunstmuseum