How important is Jóhann’s contribution to the 21st century?

2017_8_Sculpture2

Jóhann Eyfells with M.J. Neal

“We shall never surrender”. Those were the words that Winston Churchill pronounced at the wake of the Nazi Invasion of France in 1940. In 2017, there is another invasion that has been going on for many years, perhaps decades, and that is the mediocrity of art and  of the apparent corruption that seems to have permeated the Art world, where art is considered to be nothing more than a commodity and a means to exclude and even extinguish out of existence many meaningful and important artists of our time. Art can be equated to mean anything that requires a certain level of creative planning, execution and outcome. The outcome of that narrative begins the moment the art piece, like a sculpture, is shown to a receptive audience. However, what determines whether the art is successful and important is not necessarily through exhibition, peer or public scrutiny, or how complex and successful the narrative is, but rather is sometimes judged and priced arbitrarily by an elite group of art buyers, collectors and critics.

The question is how do we know if the art is good, and how can we determine that for ourselves? Some say that “art is subjective, and not all art is for all people.” Whether someone likes it or not, art should have a number of criterias that can determine whether the art is important and meaningful to someone(s). Here is something I found that might guide us a little.

“How to Judge Art: Five Qualities you can Critique whether you’re an Artist or not.”

“The characteristics I found were beauty, skill, inherent meaning, uniqueness, and fulfilled intent. I’ll explain each of these throughout the article.

I’m convinced that anyone can use their own fundamental knowledge to compare artwork based on these five inherent properties. Even if other people have a different opinion than you do about a particular work of art, this article should help you explain how you came to your conclusion.

All right, so on the basis that all art is not created equal, let’s get to the nitty-gritty and break down these five characteristics of art.

Beauty in Art

Beauty is, and always will be, in the “eye of the beholder.” Your decision about the beauty or lack of beauty in a particular work of art is instinctive and natural. In fact, you probably won’t even have to make that decision, you’ll just either be captivated by a piece of art or you won’t.

People within the same social context often agree on what is beautiful, so you’ll probably find others close by who will like the same things as you do. Some aspects of art that are generally appealing to people are:

1. Repeating shapes, patterns, and symmetry.
2. Colors, especially colors that complement or enhance each other.
3. Textures, both visual and physical (like thick, impasto paint).
4. Crops and compositions that focus the eye and keep the viewers’ attention.
5. Movement or flow to guide viewers through the art.
6. Correct or appealing proportions of figures and objects.
7. Presentation and framing.

You won’t need to take a checklist into the galleries for this since your eye will naturally be drawn to the art you prefer. Like I mentioned before, this is the easy one. All you have to do is answer the question, “Do I like this?” Of course, if you decide to ask why you like it, then the list above might come in handy.

Cezanne still life with table

Skill and technique

Technical skill is the most comparable and measurable aspect of art. As you look at a painting (or any other work of art) you probably will be able to determine how skillfully it was created simply by comparison with other works.

First, compare the works to other art you’ve seen in that medium before – if it is a painting, for example, decide whether this artist is more talented than others you’ve seen. It might be difficult if you’re just starting out, and in that case, don’t let it worry you. It will only take a short amount of time for you to see the differences between a skillful painting and one that’s poorly done.

Second, look at all the artwork on display by the artist. You might find that some are more impressive than others, or appear better made, and you’ll certainly have an idea of one or two that are the best out of the entire group.

Third, look at each work of art itself. Are they individually consistent? Are there places that you can see odd markings compared to another area within the same piece? Sometimes art may look rushed or strange, but if it is created in a similar fashion throughout the entire piece then the effect is most likely intentional. If not, then that work may not be as good as some others that are more internally cohesive.

Judging the level of skill in a work of art is probably the most difficult thing I’m suggesting to do in this article. Over time and with more exposure to art you will eventually come to a greater understanding of different mediums. Plus, if you’re lucky enough to be an artist yourself you’ll probably find out that you instinctively have a better grasp of other mediums already.

cezanne apples and oranges still life

Inherent meaning

Art is powerful, not just for its beauty or the talent needed for its creation, but because it can cause emotion, make political statements, or challenge preconceived ideas. Of course not all works of art are intended to be so thought-provoking. A still life of oranges and apples, for example, usually won’t have a deeper meaning. If it does, I think the artist deserves more credit than for a traditional still life.

Here are five levels of meaning in art, which I’ve listed in order of increasing importance.

1. Purely representational art – Made simply for visual appeal, with no deeper intent.

2. Art that references other art – It “tips its hat” to some other work, possibly providing a fresh perspective or continuing a conversation that another artist began.

3. Art that tells a story, or evokes a specific emotion – This is art that begins to affect you. It might cause you to understand, empathize or feel what’s being depicted.

4. Art that makes a statement – Here the artist is clearly speaking through the work, actively promoting a cause or perhaps bringing attention to an issue that’s important to him or her.

5. Art that is an allegory or metaphor – This is art that contains more than one meaning, and possibly several. It use symbolic imagery or deal with more intangible human issues, and yet the artwork should still work as a visually appealing creation.

Look for these when you look at art. Finding meaning or emotion in art opens up a whole new realm of enjoyment, and will deepen your appreciation of artists who incorporate it into their work.

Uniqueness

This is the aspect of art which relates to not only what the artist is depicting but also how the artist is depicting it.

Good art either explores new subjects, or old subjects in a way that hasn’t been done before. When you look at art, ask yourself what (if anything) is different in the work from all the other art you’ve seen. Sometimes it will jump out at you, sometimes it won’t. If you do notice something different, decide for yourself whether that unique quality distracts from or enhances the piece.

There’s a happy medium, I believe, in finding art that stands out from the crowd but doesn’t use gimmicks or cause distractions.

Fulfilled intent

What is the artist trying to say? I hear this question a lot, and for the most part there’s a simple way to find out. If you’re at a gallery, read the artist statement. Many artists just want to accurately portray a subject, or to express an emotion. The important thing is for the artist to be in control of the art. If the intent is one thing, the art shouldn’t say something else. The artist statement should deepen and strengthen the viewers’ understanding of the art.

Cezanne still life with flaskI’d suggest that when you go to a solo show, briefly scan all of the works being displayed so you can get an idea of the artist’s style and note any constant themes, emotions, or ideas.

Then go through each piece of art again, but more slowly, to really study them. Take your time and determine what you think of each one according to the five characteristics mentioned in this article. After that, check out the artist’s statement.

Compare the artist’s intent with what you had previously understood the intent to be, and then armed with that knowledge (trust me, sometimes it’ll blow your mind) make one last round of the gallery to see how your opinions have changed.

If you experienced the artist’s intent before reading the statement, excellent. If you only got it after reading the artist’s statement, that’s OK too, just not quite as good.

This method keeps the art from being overshadowed immediately by what the artist is saying about his or her work. It lets the art speak for itself, yet the artist still gets a chance to clarify what is meant in case you miss the point on your own.

Of course, if you can’t even understand what the artist is saying in the artist statement, then just try to enjoy the art for its visual impact and don’t worry about it. The intent probably wasn’t very clear for that artist either.

To sum it all up:

Good art should appeal to you. It will be skillfully made, most likely by an artist who has created other works in a similar fashion.

The best art has meaning beyond just an image; perhaps it will bring you to tears, make you laugh, or remind you of something you’d almost forgotten. It also stands out in a crowd, and dares to be different.

Most importantly (in my opinion) good art is understandable, although it may make you think in ways you never expected to.

I hope you found this article helpful; I know that in writing it I’ve solidified some of my own views about art. Feel free to send me your own comments or feedback as well.”

*All images in this post are details from still life paintings by Cezanne.”

In the end, art is nothing more than a commodity, and its value is arbitrary, unless someone(s) is willing to break the mold and take the risk and forfeit actual money for the piece, due to its inherent value to the collector, not the value determined by those market forces. People who have the means to buy art are less likely to forfeit money on art that is not deemed “marketable” in the Art World. If the work is not deemed valuable by market demand, than the art is “un valued.” By the way, not all marketable art is good art, and it seems that the world has ignored that fact for many decades now.

sculpture12-1-of-1

Jóhann Eyfells, at 94, is without a doubt one of the most diverse and important artist of the 20th and 21st centuries. However, the recognition he has sought has been as elusive as the collectors for his work. Why? Very simple he doesn’t play the game that most recognized artists have, and he is to many collectors, buyers and critics untamed and enigmatic. His body of work challenges the viewer by its impressive forms, diversity, physical size & weight, and its inherent deeper meanings. He is one of the most true and honest artist that this world could ever hope to produce today, whose creative process is deep, precise, and multidimensional. He brings to this world an opportunity to not only peer into the unknowing universe that resides around us, but also within our own consciousness. He needs our attention, because this world desperately needs him to help us out of our mediocrity and growing lassitude.

 

 

Jóhann Eyfells will never surrender because what keeps him alive is not whether he will be accepted, appreciated or if his work will sell, but because he embodies the spirit of an artist, continuously searching for the opportunity to express what words can’t possibly express about ourselves and the universe we belong to.

 

 

Advertisements

We did it! “Best Documentary Film”

JohannSunset

Our film had its US premiere in Fredericksburg, Texas. It had a tremendous reception. It won the “Best Documentary” category at the 2017 Hill Country Film Festival. As the director and co-producer, I cannot say enough about the experience of watching our own film, A Force in Nature, in front of a live audience. It was a very moving and emotional moment, probably the most satisfying I’ve ever experienced in my entire life.

What a way to introduce this film to the world. It had its American premiere in Fredericksburg, Texas, the very spot where the film began filming, almost 10 years ago. On September 28 – October 8, 2017 the film will have it’s European Premiere at the Reykjavik International Film Festival where Jóhann Eyfells was born. This promises to be quite a homecoming for the artist and his priceless body of work.

 

World Premier at the 2017 Hill Country Film Festival – April 27-30

 

I don’t know if I am awake or dreaming any of this, or if in fact the making of our film, A Force in Nature, has reached its final conclusion, giving way to a new phase in the film’s life cycle. We helped it along through its conception and development, and now it’s about to be born out for the world to see and experience for the first time.

Finishing A Force in Nature was undoubtedly a personal challenge for me. Through the course of the ten years of production/post-production, I would often wonder if it would ever get finished, especially since this film was mostly self-funded. The close collaboration I had with co-producer and editor Vishwanand Shetti (aka. V.) during the past 6 years was not only an extraordinary opportunity to learn the art of perseverance and patience with getting the project finished, but also afforded V. and I the space to explore the depths of Jóhann’s life and his thought provoking art installations.

Screen Shot 2017-04-08 at 10.49.07 AM.png

The 2017 Hill Country Film Festival will be where the film will have its first public exhibition on Saturday, April 29. For me personally, this process of making this film has also fostered a long and lasting collaborative friendship with both V and Jóhann Eyfells, who continue to have an unwavering influence on me as a human being and artist.

Being an artist is nothing short of insanity, yet its the type of insanity the world needs right now, desperately! Its the right kind of insanity, in which we are challenged to allow ourselves to experience the unexpected and spontaneous, and be aware of the forces that keep us complaisant and indifferent. When taking action or making a gesture, an artist does so without hesitation because he/she knows that the expression itself has to be authentic and immediate. The artist does not allow fear to dictate the decisions and choices he/she makes, but rather fear is merely there to signal that an action and/or thought is to take place.

As is often the case, when in the presence of Jóhann, one is constantly put to the intellectual test. Recently, Jóhann Eyfells and I discussed the difference between the concepts of “instinct” and “intuition”. He asked me if I knew the difference. Hesitantly, I responded that I thought I had good intuition and instinct and admittedly used both words interchangeably, not really aware of the difference. Jóhann was quick to point out the difference to me, explaining that “instinct”, which comes from deep within our nature to feel, is spontaneous and tireless, while “intuition”, which is more connected with intellectual reasoning, is more deliberate and sluggish. That got me thinking. Once more Jóhann challenges me to get in the ring and participate in the fight against complacency, and to do that, I must be willing to jump headfirst into the dark abyss, in other words, the unknown.

Do you know the difference between “instinct” and “intuition?”

Hayden de M. Yates (director and co-producer)

Visit HillCountryff.com and book your festival passes now. A Force in Nature will be screening on Saturday, April 29 at 11am.

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: https://vimeo.com/135532487

United Nations Exhibit Orlando Sentinel 1999

Sculptor’s Audience Is International

Screen shot 2012-03-12 at 11.50.16 AM

“Work by past University of Central Florida professor, Jóhann Eyfells, will be in a United Nations exhibit. “You never know what this will lead to,” he said.

August 1, 1999 By Margaret Sloane Sentinel Correspondent

OVIEDO – Artist Johann Eyfells will have an international stage for his art.

The sculptor has been notified that one of his creations was chosen to be displayed in an art exhibition at the United Nations in New York City.

“It’s really wonderful to be part of something as top-notch as this show,” said the 76-year-old artist. “You never know what this will lead to.” One of his complex and philosophical pieces from a collection he calls “cloth collapsions” was selected for the U.N. show. It will be shipped to New York for exhibition along with works by artists from 35 countries.

Eyfells, who was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, will represent his homeland at the U.N. exhibit, which will open in September. You might think Eyfells, after 30 years of teaching at the University of Central Florida, would look forward to a quiet retirement. Instead, Eyfells is forging into the commercial world of art with the same passion he taught his students at UCF.

Eyfells’ cloth collapsions have never been shown before, and he hopes to make a statement in the art world with his unusual creations.

“I consider my work sculpture even though the pieces consist of several layers of porous cloth, because I use sculpture elements such as metal disks or rings when designing them,” he said. Although the artist is enjoying worldwide acclaim, his heart is still in the community where he lives. Eyfells is particularly excited to play a role in giving Oviedo international recognition. “It’s a strong beginning in establishing Oviedo as an artist colony and a worldwide center for the arts,” he said.

With his years of mentoring students, Eyfells is amazed at the talent in the community. He thinks small cities such as Oviedo should capitalize on their homegrown talent. Barbara Walker-Seaman, owner of the Artistic Hand in Oviedo, was one of Eyfells’ first students at UCF 30 years ago. “I think it is very exciting that a local artist of his caliber is involved in such a prestigious show at the U.N. His work is so unique and full of energy. It stimulates the imagination,” she said.

Eyfells’ work is symbolic of his belief that it is the outer world that triggers what to do next, a concept that he calls “receptualism.” Receptualism has strong ties to the idea that man needs to pay more attention to the nature of things and to conserve the world.

Eyfells has recently sold a few pieces of his work from another collection. When asked why there seems to be a growing interest in owning his artwork, he said that his age probably has something to do with it. “It’s just a theory, but when an artist is getting on in years, people are more apt to buy some of his work,” he said.

Some of Eyfells’ sculptures grace the front lawn of his home on Tuskawilla Road in Oviedo. His work took top prize in the First National Sculpture Invitational Exhibition at the DeLand Museum in 1992 and has been exhibited worldwide in both private and public collections.

Eyfells plans a large one-man show of his work at the UCF art gallery in September. To view some of Eyfells’ work or to contact him, you can log on to: http://pegasus.cc.ucf.edu/jeyfells/

Jóhann is an explorer of the mind.

Spirals4

Jóhann, braving one of the worst rain downpours this city has ever experienced, came by to see me in Austin from Fredericksburg (1.5 hours away) to urgently talk to me about something. As we sat down over a warm cup of tea, he asked whether I was prepared to hear what he holds staunchly as his own conclusions about life, for which he felt he was repeatedly criticized and reproached throughout his life as an artist by many of his contemporaries.  He showed me a “Critique” of Nietzsche that he left for me to decipher.

Before I continue, I want to clarify some things that some of us may presume of this man. I know Jóhann to be a true intellect “par excellence”, in that his conclusions and understandings of life are not from the perspective of an impetuous egotist or self centered and thoughtless artist, but from his keen observations of life’s processes, that began very early in his own life. The innocence and constant curiosity he had as a child, is still to this day very much evident. For instance, as a seven year old boy he would keenly observe the spiral-like motions of swirling eddies on the edge of a fast moving Icelandic river, which would eventually lead him decades later to creating his giant monumental spirals.

Jóhann explores the mind to its deepest depths, the same way mankind today explores the vast expanse and mystery of the universe. I challenge anyone to explain to me the experiential difference.

After reading and deciphering two pages from this Nietzsche “Critique”, the following seems to be what drives Jóhann’s life and art:

Life goes beyond the limits that knowledge fixes for it, but thought goes beyond the limits that life fixes for it. Thought ceases to be a ratio, while life ceases to be a reaction. This is the essence of ART.”

I think visionary artists like Jóhann will doubt themselves at times and wonder if they are the genuine thing, the true spokesperson of the beyond, the channel for brilliance and God-like revelations.  Whist an artist is alive, his banal physicality stands before his extraordinary genius, but once departed from the physical world, the artist’s genius is then revealed for all to see and feel. Recognizing that brilliance, as observers, we often forget that such individuals were actually human.

Poem #25 – Spontaneous, Yet Slow in Birth

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 2.07.06 AM

(click on picture – password: “spirals”)

SPONTANEOUS, YET SLOW IN BIRTH

intentions of man

impelled by active moments of formative forces

conceived in boldness

sanctioned in birth by perception

finding inner consummation

in pinnacled forms of climax

sustained will against random nature

spirit-obsessed impulse of expression

transcending the laws of organic survival

forms of faith-inspired matter-of-factness

belie ritual births measured and slow

in irrational spontaneity of conception

mastered by the whole of experience

skilled intentions exists in sculptured matter

J. Eyfells – Stonehenge – 1964