“I believe most of us are extremely drawn to the dark side of our own nature” – Monica Hee Eun
28 January 2024
Botanical Delights made of Black Leather: Emma Marita Westergaard
27 March 2024

Artist Interview

Simon Garðarsson

Shadowy landscapes and obscure music in Dark Pointillism

In collaboration with Lövendahl, Zakarian created and curated BLACKLANDS:
a group exhibition focusing on the color black.
The Dark Pointillism artist Simon Garðarsson was one of the participants.

Interview by Mariam Zakarian, February 2024.
Interviewet findes også på dansk.

A somber poetry flows through Simon Garðarsson’s work. Silhouettes of black, hardened, Northern landscapes are contrasted against foggy sources of light. The vastness of the spaces he draws are beautifully composed and controlled with very precise rhythms and textures, which often repeat and create unnatural environments that draw you in.

Between images of tall and imposing trees there are occult symbols and ancient structures, and there seems to always be a silence in these drawings that is both tranquil and heavy. But above all, it is the technique which makes these artworks ever more intriguing.

The Blood Moon Incantation. 2017, pen & ink
The practice of applying small strokes or dots of pigment to a surface, which create a coherent image when you step away from the canvas, is called Pointillism. It’s a very time-consuming technique first developed in the late 1800s, with artists like Georges Seurat and Paul Signac experimenting with the study of optics and the latest theories about color.
Garðarsson utilizes the same technique, but instead of color, he uses black ink on paper, calling his chosen style of art Dark Pointillism.
In painstaking detail he puts fineliner pens to paper repeatedly over hours, months, until the image forms. It is therefore not the blending of colors that attracts the eye, but the various shadows and lights that appear through a grainy, noisy texture of dots, resembling old, silent film footage.
The technique has developed quickly and naturally for the artist and “with such a smooth transition that I didn’t notice it unless I was comparing an old work with a new one”.
Paul Signac - The Port of Saint-Tropez. 1901, oil on canvas. A classic work of Pointillism.
Garðarsson is self-taught, drawing since early childhood, but it is during the past decade that he began developing his current art style. Besides working with visual art, he also immerses himself in creating music that seems as steeped in black ink and shadowy landscapes as his drawings via the Black Metal bands Í Myrkri, and Ildskær, and the Dungeon Synth project Taagebue, named after an optical atmospheric phenomenon resulting in a colorless rainbow, “which rarely emerges when the sun glares through the fog”.
With this perfect mental image in place, let us dive into the art, in the artist’s own words:
Q: When and why did you start drawing as you do now?

Simon Garðarsson: My current way of drawing, which I call Dark Pointillism, I started  back in 2015/16. I quickly found out how meditative it was for me, especially because I was also diagnosed with anxiety at approximately the same time. It helped me immensely through the first period, which was really difficult, with unpredictable panic attacks and restlessness in body and mind. Pointillism therefore also became “my” style, something that most people spend many years finding. Until I found it, I had worked with many different styles and themes.

It was also the starting point for a dream to make a living from art, which quickly gained momentum over the following 5 years.

Levn. 2018, pen & ink
Moonjeie. 2020, pen & ink
Wooded Memory. 2020, pen & ink
Q: What does your work process look like?

The process typically starts with an idea, a visual thought of how a piece could look, which I sketch on paper with a pencil until I have the basic outline. After that, I quickly start adding the dots. It’s almost impossible to see what it’s going to represent until I’ve spent the first 50-100 hours. A “larger” piece of 30×30 cm takes me about 600 hours to complete over a period of 3-6 months. I only use visual references if I have to draw something figuratively that I haven’t drawn before, e.g. an old stave church. But my references mainly come from my visual concepts and the music I immerse myself in.
I constantly listen to music, either Black Metal or Dungeon Synth, where I am transported to the universe I am creating and at the same time I get the feeling I want to show and get others to experience. The only quiet moments I have are my walks in nature.

"[The] fascination with the dark and the occult [...] probably stems from a rebellious side of my Christian upbringing and the detachment from it in my early adulthood. "

- Simon Garðarsson
Q: Are there themes in your work that you keep returning to and why?

I have always had a fascination with the dark and the occult in the form of symbolic texts and images from e.g. the Bible.
I often find myself returning to these subjects in the form of drawing snakes, skeletons etc., thereby giving the work a symbolic, almost personal meaning, which probably stems from a rebellious side of my Christian upbringing and the detachment from it in my early adulthood. 

Q: Does your work arise intellectually or intuitively? Do you work from a philosophy or artist statement?

I think it’s a bit of a mix. My works are created based on a scientific approach with great finesse and accuracy, but at the same time it is extremely unpredictable what the end result will be. It’s probably why I can sit with a piece for such a long time; I can hardly wait to see what the result will be. I also often try out new techniques while the work is being created.

Prophet. 2019, pen & ink
Q: Why do you choose to use black and white in your work?

I probably do that because I’ve never really been good at colors, not just in art, but in general. But I also think that black can do something very special when working with shadows, light and depth, which are the 3 things I have worked the most to master and am still developing.
I love how you can create something with so much life and depth using just one tool.

Black Fortress of Solitude. 2019, pen & ink
Q: Do you have a specific artwork, which matters more to you than others?

“Moonjeie” is probably the one of my works which has had the greatest significance for me. It was also the most time-consuming and mentally challenging work. Both technically and visually, it is also my favorite. It was used as an album cover by one of my favorite Dungeon Synth projects ”Nortfalke” from the Netherlands, who I am incredibly proud to have worked with. I went through a very difficult period in my life while working on this piece, so for that reason it also symbolizes this period for me and how I came back from it.

"Art for me is when the human soul
is expressed in an artwork."

- Simon Garðarsson
Q: Do you have a dream project that you would undertake if you had unlimited time and resources?

An absolute dream project, if I didn’t have to think about supporting myself, would be a huge work of approx. 2 x 5 meters. It would have to be made with slightly larger ink pens than I use now, but still so small that you’d have to get really close before realizing that it’s made entirely with dots. And the dream scenario would be for it to become part of a large museum’s permanent exhibition. Someday, hopefully!

Ephemeros. 2019, pen & ink

"I find it heartbreaking to see musicians in particular starting to use this soulless tool [AI generated images]...from copyrighted artists' works."

- Simon Garðarsson
Q: Who and/or what are your main influences?

I definitely think that the music has had the biggest influence in terms of how my style has changed thematically. Black Metal and Dungeon Synth are the genres I immerse myself in as a musician, and therefore also the ones I listen to the most. So my works are often a visual expression of these genres, often sold as album covers. For me, music and art go hand in hand.
I have been inspired by artists such as Blial Cabal, Rotten Fantom and later Danny Larsen, who also does pointillism, but on a much larger and photorealistic level. They have also been a kind of role model in relation to working as a professional artist.

Ortus Lucem. 2018, pen & ink
Q: Art is notoriously difficult to define and there are many disagreements. How would you define art?

I don’t know if there is a right answer either! But art for me is when the human soul is expressed in an artwork. When there is a craft, created with feeling and passion, preferably with blood, sweat and tears. I am personally most impressed by good craftsmanship. When you can see how much time and thought has gone into a work. This is probably also why I am so fascinated by the great masters of the Renaissance and the Golden Age in Danish painting. Feeling and atmosphere combined with good craftsmanship are almost paramount for me.

If I have to name what is not art for me, it is the new wave of A.I.
“art”. I find it heartbreaking to see musicians in particular starting to use this soulless tool, which is generated from thousands of images of typically copyrighted artists’ works. Even worse is when they call these generated images their own artworks. It is a sad trend that I feel must be addressed and informed about. A short and good motto like “A.I. “art” is Art theft” is, in my experience, something that makes people stop and examine more closely what it is they support when using A.I.

Q: And finally, why do you create art?

Creative urge is probably the best word I have. It’s deep in my genes, I think. I have often wondered why that urge is there, and I think maybe part of it is to leave an imprint of one’s soul here on Earth. A more personal explanation is also the urge to get your feelings out in a way that you couldn’t get them out otherwise. I feel the same way about music. Art and music are therapy for a mind full of turmoil and thoughts, a tool to keep it stabilized and calm. At the same time, I want to give people the opportunity to have an insight into this by exhibiting the art and releasing the music, but it’s really just a bonus as I’m doing it mainly for my own sake.

Find more of Simon Garðarsson‘s work on Instagram, on Facebook and on his Website.

Check out last month’s artist interview with Monica Hee Eun about dangerous female manifestations and the shadows of our psyche.
And for more stunning landscape drawings, view Inken Stabell’s etchings.



Umbra. 2017, pen & ink