Life Begins at Ninety

Life does not end for Jóhann, it’s only the beginning.


I am a Thief

“I am a thief. I steal someone’s creation. I take someone else’s ‘success and make it my own.” Jóhann Eyfells

There is an inert and outward beauty in these so called found objects that Eyfells selects as his own. How is he able to recognize the inherent genius that created each of these objects? Is it God or is it Man? When each of these forms were initially created, they were designed and manufactured for a single function use to serve mankind. Jóhann Eyfells recognizes, not only the brilliant unambiguous engineering in each of these object, but also the inherent beauty of obsolescence. Most of these pieces share a common fate. They experienced a similar array of forces that it took to create, utilize and destroy them. Eyfells is merely there to bring these forces to light by displaying these objects in their various stages of disintegration and dissolution. He will also go as far as to give them new life and re-purpose them into functioning pieces of art. Thanks to Jóhann they begin a new life of artistic expression.


(photo courtesy of Hayden de M. Yates)

Should you wish to participate towards the making of our feature film documentary, A Force in Nature, you can do so right here:

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 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:



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.