Jonas F Thorsteinsson visual artist.

About J.F. Thorsteinsson

 

Environmentalist. Storyteller. Visual Artist.

 

It has taken Jonas many interesting detours to become a painter and visual artist. It is the story of a boy and a man who was never afraid of asking the wrong questions. Jonas is known for speaking the inconvenient truth both publicly and in his art.
 
 
Growing up in a poor working-class family in Iceland in the 1960s soon taught him to survive and to think critically. Iceland was then a third world country where art, poetry would not get you very far unless you were part of the small powerful elite. Corruption, abuse, bullying, and manipulation ruled in the small clan society.
 
 
20 years old Jonas decided to escape Iceland and seek new opportunities in Denmark. The next years of hard work and strong survivor skills brought him great success in the tourism business. Art was still a significant part of his life, although this time as an art collector and dealer.
He became a part of the political society when he married a diplomat in 1997. He spent the next14 years observing the political game from the very inside both in Denmark, Iceland, and Canada. Valuable insight for a critical thinker.

 

The Trial

During the same year in 1997, Jonas had become very successful in the art business. He found many Icelandic art-treasures and donated several works to the Icelandic parliament. His success leads to one of the biggest investigations and trials in Icelandic History. In 1997 Iceland’s largest Art Gallery was accused of selling fake paintings, a handful of them from Jonas. He was taken to court and trial in Iceland together with the gallery owner who had just finished his sentence for selling fake art.
 
The absurdness of this case was endless. Witnesses were threatened, police documents were faked, scientific investigations amateurish, and Jonas and his family were under constant public harassment. But the real art-world supported him: Tate Gallery, the National Gallery of Denmark, and Moderna Museet in Sweden were all on Jonas’ side.
 
The investigation and trial ended with a non-guilty verdict by the District Court in 2004 and proved Jonas was nothing more than a customer in the gallery.
 
Jonas appealed the not guilty verdict to the High Court demanding that the people behind the case were brought to justice. The outcome was the same: the case ended with not guilty on all counts.
 
However, Jonas’s name was ruined. The “public court” had already judged him and the art-elite had done everything they could to spread rumors and suspicion. Even the Minister of Justice came out on the national news: “We have done everything to stop them from ever dealing with art again!”. Jonas was now a “persona non grata” wherever he went. He is often referred to the 1% to ever win a case against the state of Iceland.

 

The Canada Years

During the case, Jonas and his family were moved to Canada, Winnipeg, due to his wife’s job in the diplomacy.
 
The constant wait during the trial gave Jonas an opportunity to study local art. He was fascinated with Aboriginal art from the point of The Forks and the Red River.
 
He traveled to follow the flooding of rivers and seeing the frozen lake Winnipeg in content with Lawrence Harris, Krieghoff, and Kane.
 
Moving to Ottawa he got acquainted with the Nationalism and the Group of Seven. He noted that since the 1930s, Canadian painters had developed a wide range of highly individual styles with many traces from Nordic Art. He studied Emily Carr and her paintings of totem poles, native villages, and the forests of British Columbia.
 
Other painters he noted included the landscape artist David Milne and the prairie painter William Kurelek. In Quebec, he closely studied post-impressionist and fauvist art Paul-Émile Borduas and Jean-Paul Riopelle in the modernist collective known as Les Automatistes.
 
In Ottawa, he studied philosophy and mass communications, Truth and Propaganda based on Propaganda and the Ethics of Persuasion, which examines historical, ethical, and legal issues relating to propaganda by Ottawa’s Orwell.

 

Back to Iceland. Back to Reality

When his wife was moved back on post in Iceland in 2007, Jonas became a successful entrepreneur in Icelandic tourism. He started walking the streets of Reykjavik founding the “Free Tour of Reykjavik”. His tour soon became world-famous. It made it to the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, Stern. CNN, and to no. 4 on Lonely Planet’s top 10 of the Best Freebies in the World.
 
The secret to the immense success was telling the actual truth about Icelandic history, politics, and banking, and what it was really like to be living in Iceland.
 
Unlike the elite, the public wanted to hear the truth. A divorce in 2012 also meant no safety net and no mercy from the elite.
 
Jonas had also created another walking tour: Haunted Walk in Bright Daylight, telling ghost stories about the dark past of Iceland. The tour was banned by the Icelandic Church and National Museum of Iceland in 2013 because the ghost stories were not true (!!!!!).
 
The walking tours turned in to day-tours, and Goecco was born: Iceland’s first and only Eco Tour Company. With no support from the bank or investors, Jonas and his new wife Christina slowly built Goecco into another success, and another canvas for Jonas to raise awareness around climate change, whale killings and political injustice in Iceland.
 
Although warned many times to lay low on the “truth about Iceland” he continued to tell the story on his tours.
 
 
Goecco kept growing and so did the attempts to bring it down by the system. In August 2018 things took a nasty turn. After a certain dark incident of system abuse against Jonas and Goecco with the officials caught red-handed, Jonas and Christina and their little daughter had to flee to Denmark overnight to seek protection by Danish democracy and human rights. Here they have now started a completely new life and are slowly recovering from the shocking incident.

 

A New Beginning

Jonas is now committed to his true canvas. Fuelled by the injustice he is more determined and inspired than ever to tell the untold stories of human rights, freedom of speech, slavery, environmental problems, politics, suppression, and dark forces of the world’s elite. But he is also inspired by the brutal forces of nature he grew up within Iceland. Where nature is so strong it can kill you in an instant.
 

 

What’s Next…

Jonas is currently working on his next exhibition: TAX&TAXI inspired by Odd Nerdrum’s speech and his Crime & Refuge exhibition. He feels a strong connection with Nerdrum as it seems they have experienced the same political abuse in Norway and Iceland.
 
Here we present a part of the closing word by Odd Nerdrum in the criminal case against him:
“…And this is in many ways the ending point – all the other things they have done against me are not very dangerous, so they had to find something, and I always say that; If one has not murdered, nor raped a child, then one finds something else for which to punish a person, and then they always turn to taxes.
 
Now I am not talking about the details in this tax case, but generally speaking – they go to taxes, and this one can also be seen in foreign countries when they don’t like people – they turn to that, because then they can keep on with them, make them suffer for quite a long time. …it is fifty years of lacking credibility which has resulted in me ending up in this situation.
 
Yes, here there are numbers that do not match. It is generally seen as a terrible situation that I have been living in for so many years and therefore I think that it is terrible if I should end my days… I am now seventy years old… to end my days in prison without the chance to get anything done anymore. Not to work with what I should have been doing, but put me in prison because I was so damn honest with the customers… “ Odd Nerdrum.
klimakunst climate change art