Hreinn Friðfinnsson, one of Iceland’s most important artists, has died at the age of 81. Reykjavík’s i8 Gallery, which has represented the artist since 1995, confirmed the news in an email newsletter.

Characterized for his ability to transcend commonplace subjects and materials in his art, Friðfinnsson worked across performance, sculpture, photography, drawing, and installation for seven decades. The artist often used such mediums as paper, cardboard, and mirrors to create works aimed at perceptual shifts. His unique brand of poetic expression came to be called lyrical conceptualism.

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“Notions of time are always compelling,” Friðfinnsson once said of his practice. “I read what comes my way about physics and mathematics, but I read as one who is uninitiated. The feeling and the interest in the essence of time is serious, but my dealing with time is not knowledge-based; it is more exploratory and feeling-based.”

Friðfinnsson was born in Baer Dölum, Iceland, in 1943. He co-founded the artist group SÚM in Reykjavík in 1965 and soon rose to prominence as a leading figure in the Icelandic avant-garde. In the early 1970s, he moved to Amsterdam, where he lived and worked until his death.

He had recent solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art and Design in Miami, the Icelandic Folk and Outsider Art Museum, and the Kunstverein in Amsterdam, as well as a 2019 retrospective that was co-organized by the Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève and KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin. He also he participated in the 2017 Skulptur Projekt Münster in Germany.

Earlier showings for Friðfinnsson include exhibitions at the Malmö Konsthall in Sweden (in 1978 and again 2008), the National Gallery in Reykjavik, Iceland (1993), the Kyoto Art Center in Japan (2002), and the Serpentine Gallery in London (2007). In 1993, he represented Iceland at the Venice Biennale. His work was also featured in group shows including the “Carnegie Art Award” in 2000 and “Sleeping Beauty–Art Now, Scandinavia Today” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1983.

“We’re saddened by the death of Hreinn Fridfinnsson. His work, exploring ideas of the self and time, will forever be celebrated for its lyricism and stark poetry that transcends the often-commonplace subjects,” Serpentine artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist told ARTnews by email. “His 2007 exhibition at Serpentine was one of the most popular and galvanised audiences.”