My life with Jóhann

It is a rare moment when I can fully reflect on my life and acknowledge how a single human being has significantly influenced my life.  But after almost 10 years of knowing Jóhann Eyfells, as an artist and a human being, I have finally managed to do just that.


The art of Johann Eyfells is not an embodiment of the person but rather an expression of  something beyond the person, beyond the rational constructs of modern civilization that have shaped our physical lives. When you stand and face an Eyfells’ sculpture be prepared to be intellectually, psychically and spiritually challenged. You are about to enter a reality that is both unfamiliar and irrational. It is truly the unknown, seemingly chaotic, which most of us will avoid at all costs.

I have no doubt now, that Jóhann Eyfells is as nimble, precise and swift with his understanding of the cosmos and the physical world we live in, as he was in the ring as a boxing champion in Iceland. It is with this almost ‘supernatural’ agility that he is able to conceptualize and execute all of his projects, whether it is his collapsions, in which ‘time’ as an abstract concept is visually revealed, his cairns, his rocks or his multiple installations of ‘industrial made’ found objects of massive proportions, sometime weighing up to 14 tons.


And let me tell you, when I stop to think how a stooped over 92 year old, whose body is as fragile as porcelain, can manage to lift and precisely position these huge rusted steel remnants of an industrial age past to satisfy his aesthetic compulsion as an artist, I am often left speechless and astonished.


Yes, indeed, he often sees the inherent beauty of something that would otherwise seem obsolete and discarded to most of us seemingly ‘forward thinking’ humans, and that is precisely what these objects have become to him, beautiful expressions of human engineering and brilliance. Recently, they have become necessary and critical components to articulating to the world our often unsettled and sometimes fearful relationship with the unknown and irrational. It does seem ironic that he uses the very elements that not only embody the rational and physical world, manufactured tools and elements of the industrial age, like giant turbine propellers, to open our minds to the unfamiliar seemingly insane world of Eyfells.

As a true artist, he tirelessly challenges our tendency towards complacency, brought on by the comforts and conveniences of the industrial, electronic and now, digital age. I see him as the Don Quixote of the 21st century, tirelessly and against all odds, confronting the rational world, except this time he does not represent a tragic character that ultimately gives in to ‘convention’ and renounces his ‘insanity’ to become a mere shepherd. No, instead, he selflessly provides us with the opportunity to see for ourselves how collectively we can easily be allured by the deceptiveness of rational thought, that it is ok to embrace the irrational, the unknown. He is our new hero, without a doubt, and it will take us a little while to realize this. Its highly probable that he will not see this revolution of thought take hold before he passes on, but I would hope that he will bare witness to a larger audience and more global appreciation of his accomplishments.


If WE are willing and courageous enough to allow ourselves to be immersed into the unknown and uncharted aspects of our intellect and psyche, I promise, like I have, YOU will in fact see the light and wisdom of Jóhann’s aesthetic expression and art, and as a result, be forever transformed.

Today, thanks to the insight I’ve gained through Johann’s work and vision, I feel I am at a better place in my life, simply because I am not defeated by the fear of the unknown. In fact, it is that fear that signals that part of me to move forward instead of backward, to take risks and ‘leaps of faith’. It is also through those ‘leaps of faith’ that I discover new understanding, not only of myself, but of the cosmos around me. I will certainly miss Jóhann when he is no longer with us, but his insight and joy of life will eternally course through my veins.        Written by Hayden de M. Yates


Photos by Hayden de M. Yates and Ian Candler

To see the trailer of the new documentary film, A Force in Nature, go to the following link:

Iceland is recognizing one of their own

Johann’s sculpture has recently made headlines on the most important Icelandic publication, FRETTABLADID. See it below:

JohannNewspaper copyBe sure to also see the trailer for A Force in Nature here:

The Meaning of “I”

The basis of Jóhann Eyfells’ formula and work is this, as I understand it so far:

FIN Formularedblack

The letter “I” stands for that which is eternal, also referred to as the “INNARDS of Eternity“, which does not yet exist in the material sense, but has the potential of being manifested (M).

Three examples of events in which some ‘thing’ that is being manifested from ‘nothing’; Darkness manifests into Light, Silence manifests into Sound, Stillness manifests into Movement.

As one observes some of Eyfells’ work or processes, whether it’s his large collapsions, large panels of dripping metal or cairns, they are representative of something that is “Spontaneous yet, Slow in Birth”. Furthermore, his spirals are representative of that which is spontaneous and joyful, yet still representing that which has “neither beginning nor end”, like the cross-section of time.


The Final Push

UPDATE: We are launching a new fundraising campaign to finally get this film edited and shown to the world. If we meet our fundraising goal, we will have the film completed before the year’s end.

To see the updated teaser trailer click the title link below:

A Force in Nature

As the director and co-executive producer of this film, along with Vishwanand Shetti, we are both honored to have the opportunity to share Jóhann’s story to the world. I have personally known Jóhann for close to 10 years now, and through this time my appreciation for this man’s art and philosophy has grown immeasurably.

As I strongly suspect that Jóhann’s life work will inevitably be recognized worldwide, I also find his vision and ideas to be invaluable and important to us. By being part of this film as a contributor, you will also be part of the history and influence that this man will have on our world.

Our deepest gratitude goes to our initial supporters. This film would not be where it is now without you. Your encouragement was invaluable to the success of our first phase, the filming, so THANK YOU!

The Impact

“I am of the opinion that A Force in Nature is an extremely important and historic documentary and a major contribution to contemporary art history.”  Mark Alexander – Director of Art Services 2000 Ltd.

I first met Jóhann Eyfells almost 10 years ago. Being in his immediate presence and reflecting on his large body of work, it quickly became apparent to me that Eyfells is by far, one of the most inspiring artists I’d ever known, and quite possibly one of the most influential sculptors of the 21st century. Because of that I was compelled to make this documentary.

This film speaks to all artists, young and old alike, who see Jóhann Eyfells as a beacon of hope in bringing artistic expression to an entirely new level of understanding. Eyfells’ art, at its core, conveys the very essence of nature’s powerful creative force that reside both in the material and metaphysical world we live in.

In Johann’s words:

“the creative forces trump the destructive forces, because the latter is subordinated by it. Love is such a force that it can never be destroyed.”

Jóhann Eyfells, a constantly evolving artist, is presently working on a new series of work that embodies his vision that takes prehistoric elements and combines them with contemporary steel structures. Rocks, reminiscent of Stonehenge, shaped and sculpted by time, by the slow erosive power of water and wind are now a part of his vision as an artist.

“Eyfells’ work conveys the sense of man being threatened by the earth. It is fate in the form of time and gravity… . The earth is conspicuously titanic in Iceland, and it is this earth in upheaval that finds its way into Eyfells’ sculpture.”  Donald Kuspit – Art historian and critic.

And as Jóhann Eyfells so eloquently puts it,

“Yes I am an old man, yet I am now on a wave of growing productivity and ideas. I want the world to know that I am always evolving as an artist and at this moment in time, I am finding a growing momentum in my work. You haven’t seen anything yet. I am a force in motion…”

Challenges Ahead

This film has been in the making since 2007. In June of 2012, shortly after our first successful fundraiser campaign, we flew to Iceland and spent 3 weeks filming, interviewing the very people who intimately knew him and had witnessed the challenges he faced as a controversial artist in Iceland. We have intimately followed the life and work of Jóhann Eyfells for 8 years now, and we are now ready to complete final phase of OUR film so that we may present his story to the world.

This production has faced some major hurdles, but thanks to you we overcame one of the most difficult ones, the filming. Now we are faced with one more challenge, and that is to make this story compelling and memorable through the magic of editing. We spent an additional $9500 of our own funds to support our editing team and edit 66% of the film, which is over an hour of scene work. The final third of the film reaches into the past and requires research, stock, and the time to craft the life of the artist.

We cannot do it alone, if we want this story to be seen. Without additional resources for the film, it will take us more time to finish. With your continued support and once we meet our campaign goal, I am confident we will be able to complete it in a timely way, within the next 5 months.

If you would like to donate and be part of our growing community click HERE:

A Force in Nature – Official Trailer

PosterSee the new trailer for our upcoming film. Click on the following link:

To make a donation toward the film, click the link below:

The 1993 Venice Biennale Sentinel 1993



By Mark Vosburgh of The Orlando Sentinel Staff

Sunday, September 12, 1993

Long ago, in a faraway land of icy peaks and a lava desert, a boy wondered why his father was content to paint landscapes and sell his art for modest sums. ”Is it wrong,” the artist asked his son, ”to want to make the world more beautiful?” Years later, in a place warm and lush, the son left a profitable profession for the love of molding molten metal into abstractions as cold and coarse as his homeland. To his dying day, the painter wondered why. ”He resented in certain ways my so-called abstract tendencies,” the sculptor said of his father. ”He was never quite sure I had embarked on the right road as an artist.” This summer the world took note of Johann Eyfells, avant-garde sculptor, University of Central Florida art professor, onetime architect and the son of an Icelandic painter.

Invited by the government of Iceland to represent his island birthplace, Eyfells is exhibiting samples of his work at the 1993 Biennale art show in Venice, Italy. Running from June 13 to Oct. 10, the show features artists from 49 nations, including the United States. Marcia Vetrocq, a University of New Orleans fine arts professor and Biennale patron, likens the show to Olympic events. ”For a given artist to be invited to represent his country is a great honor and a considerable opportunity,” said Vetrocq, who critiqued this year’s show for Art in America magazine. Though unfamiliar with Eyfells’ work, Vetrocq said artists representing small nations may deserve more consideration than they get at the Biennale. ”It’s like the Olympics in the sense that Guam may have a luge team, but it’s not likely to get the attention,” she said. ”Iceland may fall into that category.”

For Eyfells, the international recognition is perhaps his crowning achievement as an artist, which he contends he has been for all of his 70 years.”It never occurred to me I would become an artist,” Eyfells said during a interview last week at his home near Oviedo after returning from the Biennale. ”I always imagined that I was an artist.” At UCF, Eyfells’ reputation as both sculptor and teacher was established long ago. Maude Wahlman, a UCF art professor and former chairwoman of the art department, described her colleague as one of the people she admires most in the world. ”He is an internationally recognized artist and has been for many years,” Wahlman said. “I think the awareness of how great his reputation is is just slow in coming to Central Florida.” Rob Reedy, current chairman of the art department, said Eyfells’ 24 years in UCF classrooms also have left a lasting impression on the art world. ”His students continually come back or call and ask how Johann is doing,” Reedy said. ”And they always mention that their experience with him in the classroom affected them in a very positive way ever since.”

When the artist in Johann Eyfells first emerged at age 18, he was wearing boxing gloves. In the ring, he combined abstract tendencies with the speed of a middleweight to produce what he considered to be his first artistic creations – four knockouts. ”I think boxing helped me realize, in a reassuring way, that I had an ability to create,” he said. ”I never felt I was conforming to the coaches’ suggestions. I always felt I was alone and free to do what I wanted.” But he gave up boxing for a knockout named Kristin Halldorsdottir. An Icelandic model and dress designer, Halldorsdottir considered fighting to be uncivilized. They married in 1949, and remain together today.

Eyfells’ art took a new and lasting form – a granite rendering of a bear – at age 22, when he was studying business administration at the University of California at Berkeley. Iceland typically sent its young men to the European continent to study. But with Europe ravaged by war in 1946, Eyfells’ father sent his two sons to the United States.

An artist at heart, Johann Eyfells arrived at Berkeley with instructions from his father to choose an academic field that would prepare him for business. As a compromise, he eventually abandoned the study of business administration, and in 1953 earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Florida. Years later, he also gave up the lucrative life of a draftsman and architect to avoid having to tailor his creations to the commercial whims of customers. ”There were too many compromises,” he said. ”Too many limitations.”

After earning a master’s degree in fine arts from UF in 1964, Eyfells took up teaching in Iceland and Florida to support his life as a sculptor. His wife has given up modeling and designing in order to paint. Eyfells sells his art, but not for the kind of prices that would permit him to do nothing but create. ”I hate to talk about prices,” he said. ”It is so difficult to be realistic.” The hair that laps over his shirt collar is graying, but the body remains as lean as that of a middleweight and the hands are meaty reminders of an artistry in the ring. He otherwise fits the stereotypical image of a professor in his dark blue shirt, even darker blue tie, slightly rumpled brown slacks and scuffed brown shoes. Sweating over his fiery hot metals, he always wears a necktie. ”What it means,” he said, ”is that the artist doesn’t have to be strange or conspicuous to create.” The point is a subtle one, for he begins creating well before dawn and always by himself.

His studio is his back yard. His back yard is a scrap heap. Aluminum window frames, cushionless deck chairs, scorched railroad ties and a water heater litter the untrimmed lawn. ”The neighbors,” he said, ”do not complain.” Delivered in bulk by scrap dealers and melted in oil-burning furnaces, the junk metal is transformed into mammoth cubes, triangles or spheres that often share the earthy hues and the coarse textures of Iceland’s volcanic landscape. ”People who know my origin invariably imagine lava flows and molten rock have influenced my sculpture, but I doubt that,” he said. ”I have a feeling that if I had been born elsewhere that similar artistic manifestations would have developed.”

Eyfells calls his work ”receptual.” His definitions of the term are nearly as dense as the sculpture that it describes. The sculptor once wrote: ”Receptualism is a neologism that designates a conceptual approach to an art form that is born of an intense and critical interest in the nature of the fragile reality of minimal distance.” Even his wife of 44 years, and his colleagues in art and academic circles, admit that some of Eyfells’ abstract expressions aren’t always easily grasped. ”It is at times quite difficult to follow him,” said UCF art professor Margaret Skoglund. ”Sometimes I feel he is speaking a foreign language. But that is what makes the end result, art, so fascinating.” Said Wahlman, the former art department chairman: ”Because he is a philosopher and coming up with new vocabulary for seeing and thinking about art, you really have to open your mind a lot. ”That’s why he is such a good teacher, because he doesn’t try to make his students be like him. Instead he helps them to find themselves and their unique contributions. That’s the hardest kind of teaching.”

Fifteen years after his father’s death, the graying sculptor paused to wonder whether the Icelandic painter would have been impressed to have seen his son’s abstract tendencies at the 1993 Biennale. ”I think he would have just accepted it,” the sculptor sighed, ”as evidence of a rather disappointing emphasis in the art world.

Jóhann and Kristin, Separate But Equal Sentinel 1987


Artists: Equal but separate couple’s strength lies in each other

By Laura Stewart Dishman, Orlando Sentinel Art Critic

Published: SUNDAY, April 19, 1987

If Kristin Eyfells had never met Johann, her husband of nearly 40 years, she’d still be living in Iceland, designing and selling women’s clothing. And if Johann had never met Kristin, he might still be an architect, living and working for a large firm on Long Island.

Instead, the Scandinavians, both now in their mid-60s, became artists and moved to Florida. They still go back to Iceland occasionally, but prefer to spend most of their time working in the sprawling studios that command more than half the space in their 6,000-square-foot Oviedo home.

They like to say that the art they create in those studios has little in common except that it is made by a husband and wife. Yet Johann’s bold, organic sculpture and Kristin’s confrontational, geometric paintings are similar in their strong impact. Twenty-seven of their pieces are on exhibit through May 3 at the Osceola Center for the Arts in Kissimmee, inviting comparison.

The oversized faces of well-known figures stare blankly from Kristin’s smoothly painted oils at the Osceola Center. In a piece from her arresting ”Anonymous Ladies” series, a square-jawed woman with bright purple hair is set against an acid-green background. Tiny wrinkles and shadows are transformed into stylized, elongated diamonds enameled in harsh blue, green and purple tones. No one can escape the penetrating gaze of these visages, especially the hard, frozen faces of her perfect women. No emotion is expressed in the works. The dreamlike faces are so cool, so symmetrically presented and so geometrically exact, that they become unforgettable icons.

Johann’s abstract sculptures and works on paper are just as unconcerned with convention, and every bit as forceful. His cast-aluminum-and-bronze ”Receptual Cube” is a deep-red eroded block that looks as if it might be light to lift and touch, despite its obvious solidity and weight. The piece is both delicate and formal, concerned with texture, contour and tone, not with narration or representation.

The Eyfells have shown their works alone, together and in group exhibits in America and Europe since they moved to Orlando in 1969. But they prefer husband-and-wife shows. ”I love showing with Kristin,” Johann said. ”We’re equally dedicated as artists and our standards are equally high. I wouldn’t be as pleased to show with her if she weren’t as serious an artist as I am. But there’s nothing there that relates the works to each other except that they were made by a husband and wife, which is our strength.”

Leaning forward as she sat on a long, black sofa at one end of her studio, Kristin interrupted: ”Yes, that’s right. You go into the show and see two exactly opposite artists who work together.” Any similarities in styles could spring naturally from their shared Icelandic heritage or from the fact that they’re on ”the same wavelength in terms of artistic sincerity and dedication,” Johann said. ”I don’t think we enhance each other’s talents — we really don’t help each other out at all. We simply get peer pressure from each other. ”Ours is not a competitive relationship, but our critical judgment keeps us on our toes,” he continued. ”We know when we look at each other’s work, we have to measure up. Her eyes are honest, penetrating, discriminating — and able to intercept any hint of artificiality in my work.”  With that, Kristin shrugged and laughed almost uncomfortably at her husband’s dispassionate yet flattering evaluation.

Unlike many artist couples who work in tandem to create pieces that seamlessly blend two styles and personalities, the Eyfells share a respect for the need for solitude and privacy during the crucial creative process. ”We give each other hints, but very rarely advise,” he continued. ”Our dialogue as artists is taken for granted; we have identical ideas about quality and are both striving for quality, which is anything that taxes every fiber of our beings and is uncompromising. My art is my life.”

When Johann and Kristin met after World War II in Berkeley, Calif., he was studying architecture and she was taking a year’s leave from her clothing businesses in Iceland to travel and study. He was painting on his own, but she had never thought of herself as an artist.
They married in 1949 and by the end of the 1950s were living on Long Island. Johann, still an architect, was beginning to sell the canvases he painted in his spare time. Kristin, intent on becoming a doctor like her father, had gone back to college and was studying psychology. To fill a blank spot on her schedule, she registered for a sculpture class, and ended up, like her husband, an artist.

In 1965, after Johann had finished an advanced degree in painting and design at the University of Florida, the couple returned to Iceland, where he spent four years teaching art at the Icelandic College of Arts and Crafts in Reykjavik. They came back to America in 1969, settling in Orlando so Johann could teach at the newly opened Florida Technological University (now the University of Central Florida). After nearly two decades here, their works do not reflect the Florida experience, the artists agree.

Johann believes that his organic sculpture may be influenced by Iceland’s volcanic formations. Kristin takes her gigantic studies of famous faces from magazines. If anything, she said, her images reveal an interest in psychology and express her feelings about her subjects. She does not know them personally, yet she uses their initials as titles — almost as if they are friends. Somehow they are not just hers, but her.

Because so much of their energy and emotions are invested in their work, the Eyfells rarely discuss their art — or the art of others. They have trouble understanding how or why people talk about something that can be expressed only by doing. Art, to them, is not an object but an action, Johann said, looking at Kristin as she nodded in vigorous agreement. ”It’s always amazing to me that people try to tell me about their art. Students sometimes try to talk about what they’re doing. And I always stop them.” Sometimes, though, Johann will communicate, without speaking, with Kristin when he feels a particular painting is just right. He’ll leave her a note on the breakfast table:
”It’s finished now,” Johann Eyfells will tell his wife.

Kristin Eyfells Leaves a Legacy Behind Sentinel 2002


Kristin Eyfells Filled Canvases With Colorful, Radiant Portraits

July 22, 2002|By Jon Steinman, Sentinel Staff Writer

With her oils and pastels, Kristin Eyfells had that uncanny way of turning a blank canvas into an explosion of personality. A native of western Iceland who came to Central Florida by way of San Francisco, Eyfells became one of Central Florida’s artistic lights.

Shows of her works dazzled art lovers in Orlando, Tampa and Northern California. Eyfells, 84, died Saturday. She had suffered a stroke in 1999, and according to her husband, Johann Eyfells, “It had been downhill ever since.”

Her artistic legacy, however, endures — and not just in her Oviedo home, where countless canvases brimming with her talent are on display. Fascinated by the face and its potential to convey character and meaning, Kristin Eyfells’ faces radiated. While many of her faces were those of the famous and important, not all were. In 1994, a monumental visage by Eyfells dominated The Warehouse Gallery’s “Women at Work” show. In a 1994 review of her work, an Orlando Sentinel correspondent wrote that, “Kristin creates in each of her works an individualized compromise between the abstract and the organic.”

Jóhann & Kristin

Jóhann & Kristin

Realistic and playful might be another way to describe her paintings, which captured her subjects with a photographer’s clarity even as she danced around the natural order of things. Colors exploded unexpectedly, and in surprising places: country crooner George Jones’ chin, photographer Ansel Adams’ eyelids. The Eyfells, husband and wife, sculptor and painter, even staged shows together. They lived and breathed art through 53 years of marriage.

“We met in Berkeley, where I was a student,” said Johann Eyfells, 79, a retired University of Central Florida art professor who helped create UCF’s art department. “She was a student in fashion-design school. We married, and after we decided to move to Florida to complete our studies. The weather was the main factor. I am a sculptor, and I enjoy working in the outdoors.”

Kristin Eyfells earned a degree in psychology from the University of Florida before the couple relocated to the Orlando area. And, according to her husband, it transformed her work. “She really concentrated on faces,” he said. “I’m sure she was interested in capturing the character, the invisible energy of the subject.”

Kristin Eyfells produced much of her work out of the couple’s home. And while he was the teacher in the family, she also made time to teach as well at the Maitland Art Center, Johann Eyfells said.

The couple had no children, and their relatives all remain in Iceland, Johann Eyfells said. Baldwin-Fairchild Funeral Home, Goldenrod Chapel, is handling arrangements.