Frosti Gnarr Studio

On a frosty Friday afternoon we dropped by Frosti Gnarr Studio located in a cosy industrial environment by the sea, close to Grótta and were greeted by the studio’s staff, one enthusiastic dog and one little helper. The studio started out as a one-man show, but it is now run by three close friends that all have very different backgrounds and roles. We sat down with Frosti to talk about the concept of the Studio, their friendship, their art magazine and upcoming book publishing.

So, you are one big family here at the Studio?

Well, we all have quite different roles in our company and we have a great professional relationship even though we are close friends. I studied graphic design in the Netherlands, and when I moved back home I became a freelance graphic designer. After a while, I contacted my friend Peppi, and we decided to join forces to run a Studio together since he had a business background he took on the role of overseeing the business side of the company. I am the creative director, and Peppi loves excel so we make a perfect match.

Our friend Hilmir is a filmmaker, and he is my right hand and artistic advisor. He touches things and has to know how they are made. He knows paper types, and programs, well he basically knows how things work. The three of us are the oldest and best of friends. And sometimes we have additional company at the studio, for example my little brother is here visiting now.

I noticed that you have done branding for your clients, what can you tell us about that?

Well, branding means that we create an overall visual identity for the client, that relates prominently to their brand. We have worked on branding projects for some commercial clients, but we mainly work on smaller projects with artists and musicians to evolve their identity or brand, help them visualise what it is that they stand for.

So, isn’t it hard for you to combine your vision, with that of your clients when they already know what they want?

It can certainly be very tricky, for people with different backgrounds to work together on any project, but this process of being able to deliver a message through imagery is what graphic design is all about. We work on such a variety of projects in this studio, design for stores, branding, CD covers, books, posters, visuals for TV shows and much more that all demand that we communicate the message of the clients through our own vision of what graphic design should be.

What has been the most exciting project, you have worked on in the Studio?

I would definitely say that it is Grotta Zine, our magazine that we are so excited about. Our readers are mainly artists, and the magazine in itself is important as an archive about Icelandic artists of our times. We are documenting the art and the artists that we feel are not accessible enough, we are collecting artistic work in a catalogue.

Who will be the next artist portrayed in Grotta Zine?

Atli Bender, our next featured artist is on his final year in graphic design in the Icelandic Art Academy but will mainly showcase photography and geometrical screen print experiments in his edition of Grotta.

The title of the Magazine is sprung from our Studio’s location because we are situated here by the sea near Grótta but we were also thinking about the Italian meaning of the word, which is cave, and refers to Plato’s allegory of the cave. The artists we feature are those that we believe have been released from their shackles and have seen beyond the illusions.

So, does the surroundings here in Seltjarnarnes near Grótta, inspire you?

Yes, we are so happy to be outside of 101 Reykjavík. We sometimes walk by the ocean and Grótta lighthouse, which is in itself a magical place. We are inspired by the surroundings of course, and from being a part of this industrial area.

So, what other projects are you currently working on now?

Well, we are working on a book featuring the work of photographer Ragnar Th. Sigurðsson. We are focused on using his range and prolificacy as an artist and journalist as a medium for narrating small stories and juxtapositions in urban and rural Iceland. To narrate this we use the duality of each spread. We want our presence to be felt in this book as long as it complements the artist’s work. In essence, that is what we are trying to achieve in all of our projects, be a voice that amplifies the voice of the client.

Our other big book project “Only Human” should also be mentioned. We are collecting visual art, articles, photographs and poetry that relate to the subject of human limitations and our attempts at rising above them. We have confirmed participants such as Matthew Barney, Anya Jansen, Jenny Morgan, Richard Saja, Brian Walker and Arjen Mulder to name a few. This is a project that we work on in our free time and are not rushing. The artists participating either contribute work that fits the concept, or create pieces specifically for the book.


Interview: Ása Baldursdóttir
Photos: Nanna Dís