14 April 2016
The AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters recently featured the work of mouth painter Brandur Bjarnason Karlsson on its cover. The image depicts the eruption at the Holuhraun lava field in Iceland, where magma originating from the Bárðarbunga volcano spewed out of eruptive fissures from August 2014 to February 2015. The spectacular eruption is the subject of a new study in GRL co-authored by Brandur’s mother, Bryndis Brandsdottir, a senior researcher at the Institute of Earth Science at the University of Iceland.
Thorbjorg Agustsdottir, a graduate student in volcano seismology at University of Cambridge and lead author of the new paper, shared via e-mail information about Brandur and how the GRL cover image came to be:
Growing up in Iceland, Brandur often joined his mother on fieldwork related to seismic monitoring of Iceland´s active volcanoes. He spent many summers as a boy on the south coast of Iceland where his mother studied the Katla subglacial volcano. As a young adult, Brandur studied biology and physics at the University of Iceland, trained in judo, played basketball, and worked as a warden in the remote highlands of Iceland.
In 2008, at the age of 26, Brandur contracted a brainstem lesion through an unexplained infection, rendering him a quadriplegic. But, despite being paralyzed, Brandur has a vibrant spirit and he doesn’t let his disability prevent him from enjoying life. He advocates for equality and civil rights for disabled people, promotes the use of remote-visual devices to enjoy nature, founded the drone association in Iceland, and helped to launch the Flying Chair project, enabling disabled people to enjoy paragliding in a specially designed, lightweight chair.
Brandur is also a member of the Association Of Mouth And Foot Painting Artists, an international association of artists who paint without the use of their hands. AMFPA was established in 1956 and includes over 800 artists from 80 countries. Their work is presented at exhibitions throughout the world.
Brandur has been mouth-painting Icelandic and imaginary sci-fi landscapes since 2010, and his work has been displayed in the Reykjavík city hall. In 2014, he joined researchers during fieldwork in Iceland’s central highlands. Brandur brought a small drone with a GoPro camera, which his mother used to film the Bárðarbunga-Holuhraun eruption.
Brandur painted numerous images from the drone camera footage and photographs of the eruption. The GRL cover depicts the 2014 fissure eruption from Holuhraun, the subject of the new GRL paper. The painting shows the spectacular fire fountains, which reached over 100 meters high, along with clouds of sulfur gas and steam rising from the volcano. It also depicts lava flowing over a vast alluvial plain, fed by large glacial rivers from the Vatnajökull glacier.
Brandur originally created the painting for my supervisor Bob White, a professor at University of Cambridge. It now hangs in Bob’s home as a reminder of the truly awesome power and beauty of the eruption, and of Brandur’s extraordinary skills.
See more of Brandur’s paintings on our Tumblr.