Ingólfur Eyfells, son of the artist Jóhann Eyfells, takes us on an in depth tour of the old Icelandic farm of his childhood, recollecting an event in which a horse saved his life. This is one of the stories that brings life and texture to A Force in Nature, a biopic of Jóhann Eyfells, an Icelandic sculptor working in the remote Hill Country of Texas.
The life and work of Jóhann Eyfells is a constant reminder that “if something can go right, it will go right.” Since the first day I met with my friend Jóhann, almost nine years ago, my life has taken a whole new meaning, and for the better, without a doubt.
See this teaser, A Force in Nature(password: spirals), a feature length documentary film looking at the life and work of Jóhann Eyfells.
I recently spoke to the artist, and as usual, I come away inspired. He called to say that he had some hopeful news coming from Iceland that some individuals are taking a keen interest in his work. He seemed optimistic that more and more people are beginning to understand his vision, “almost to a tee.” Personally speaking, in the 8+ years I’ve known Jóhann, I’ve seldom thought of him as being anything other than optimistic.
As always, he asked how I was faring, and how both my children were. He was especially interested in knowing how my own pursuit of a Master’s degree in Motion Picture & Television Directing was getting on. I told him I was inundated with the richness of academia. With regards to A Force in Nature, I told him we were in full post-production and we expect to be close to finishing.
He paused for a moment and then said the following: “Directing is understanding darkness, silence, and stillness.” At first, I did not get it, but he proceeded to elaborate and said that “light is a consequence of darkness, sound a consequence of silence, and movement a consequence of stillness.” Because light, sound and movement are so fundamental to the making of any movie, I was now re-engaged, thanks to Jóhann, as I reflect on the role I am playing as a director of our film, A Force in Nature. In short, I was re-ignited by a man almost twice my age as I step away from my own effortless tendency towards complacency.
We would like to thank Sigurður Pálsson for his beautiful contribution to A Force in Nature.
Born 30. 7. 1948 at Skinnastadur, Iceland, Sigurður Pálsson studied French in Toulouse and Paris 1967-1968, drama and literature at the Institute d’Etudes Théâtrales, Sorbonne, Paris 1968-1973 and again from 1978-1982, obtaining maîtrise and D.E.A. degrees. He also studied at the Conservatoire Libre du Cinéma Français, obtaining a cinema direction diploma. He was professor at the University of Reykjavik and the National Academy of Dramatic Art. Sigurdur Pálsson has also published thirteen books of poetry from 1975 to 2006. Some of his poems have been translated into French, Swedish, English, Danish, German, Bulgarian, Chinese, Estonian, Italian, Spanish. He is also a cinema producer.
He was nominated for the Nordic Council Prize for Literature in 1993, and for the Icelandic Literary Prize in 1995 and 2001 and finally in 2007 for Minnisbók (Notebook from Memory) for which he received the Prize. Minnisbók is a memoir of his stay in France during 1967-1982, a playful, bittersweet, funny and charming description of an époque. He was awarded the annual Literary Prize of the Icelandic Radio 1999 and the Booksellers’ Prize for Poetry, 2001. Selected poems were published in French in 1993 in a bilingual edition (Poèmes des hommes et du sel) by Editions de la Différence. A selection of Pálsson’s poems was published in Bulgarian in 2005 and in Italien (with texts by two other Icelandic poets) in 2006. A selection in Spanish, Vientos y Nubes, was published in 2008. Pálsson has written eleven theatre plays that have been staged from 1975 to 2008, many of them by the Reykjavik City Theatre while the two most recent ones, a much acclaimed play on the life of Edith Piaf, and the last one, Utan gátta, were put on by the Icelandic National Theatre. One libretto: The Moonlight Island, world premiere in 1997 in Beijing. Music by Nordic Council Prize Winner, Atli Heimir Sveinsson. Three novels: Parísarhjól (The Big Wheel of Paris) published in 1998, Blár þríhyrningur (Blue Triangle) in 2000 and Næturstaður (Night Lodging) 2002.
Pálsson has also produced two full-length features (in 1983 and 1992) by Kristín Jóhannesdóttir. As in Heaven was selected in the Official Selection (Out of competition) in the Cannes Film Festival in 1992 and has won about twelve prizes in international film festivals. He has directed three TV films and several theatre plays.
Pálsson has translated over twenty titles from French into Icelandic, works by Camus, Genet, Adamov, Arrabal, Ghelderode, Feydeau, Bailly, Queffélec, Prévert, Éluard, Carrère, Augé, Deforges, Cordelier, Châtelet, Vinaver, Anne, Kvaran and Schmitt and also two plays by Arthur Miller. Sigurdur Pálsson was President of the Alliance Française of Iceland from 1976 to 1977. Chairman of the Writers’ Union of Iceland from 1984 to 1988. He was awarded the three years Honorary Stipend of the City of Reykjavik in 1987 and has several times been granted a Writer’s Stipend from the State of Iceland. He was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1990 by the French Minister of Culture and Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite in 2007 by the President of France.
Jóhann Eyfells, a defyingly driven 89 year old Icelandic sculptor living in Texas, redefines the meaning and purpose of art for the 21st century. Art is no longer a commodity or something that is there merely as a status symbol or to satisfy a superficial aesthetic need. It has a higher more profound purpose, to reformulate human consciousness. It is there to remind humanity of its own eternal infinite nature that goes beyond time and space. As a young man in Iceland, he was considered to be an exceptional boxer who had never experienced defeat. He would win over his opponent not because he was stronger, but because he would be faster, infinitely so. Boxing provided him with a glimpse of a boundless universe in which everything traveled at infinite speed.
Through Jóhann’s penetrating insight and body of work, we can begin to catch a glimpse at an infinite and ‘unknowable’ universe that resides around us…in spite of our precarious fondness of the visible and physical world.
“Complacency is the unwillingness to explore the chaotic unknown and the undefinable, and resigning ourselves to the coziness of the knowable.” Hayden de M. Yates
Jóhann’s fiery loyalty and commitment had not always been limited just to art. At 23, he left his home in Iceland, land of fire and ice, to forge a new life in America, where he would eventually meet the love of his life, Kristin, also an Icelandic sculptor/painter, with whom he would spend the next 54 years.
Jóhann and Kristin, in their undiluted love for one another would both become consummate and masterly artists, each pushed by the other’s genuine passion and tenacious commitment to their craft, as an expression of humanity and beyond.
And here is some info about A Force in Nature, a feature documentary film due out in Spring or summer of 2013. The password is “spirals”.
You can join us on Facebook at Friends of Jóhann Eyfells
Take a look at a few scenes from our film below. Don’t forget the password:
A major exhibit of Jóhann Eyfells’ collaption along with a video installation by filmmaker, Þór Elís Pálsson at Iceland’s Reykjavik Museum of Art.
As the title suggests, Power of Passage explores the passing moment and its image. The focal point of the exhibition is the large scale Cloth Collapsion by Jóhann Eyfells (b. 1923) which is shown alongside a three-channel video installation created by video artist Þór Elís Pálsson, using his own interviews with Eyfells about his philosophy of art and life.
The exhibit is from September 12 to January 6, 2013
See the trailer for A Force in Nature, a full length documentary film about the artist.
In Iceland, the day that you are born, you are somebody, whether girl or boy. Your family name is your father’s, however, Icelanders take it one step further and tack on your gender. For example, when the artist Kristin Halldorsdottir was born in a small village inland from Reykjavik, she was given the name Kristin by her parents, but her surname was “the daughter of Halldors.” Had she been a boy, she would have been named “the son of Halldors.” This clears up any confusion in communications as to the gender of the newborn child, a matter of extreme importance in Iceland. In the Icelandic language, there are different greetings for males and females, nouns have gender as in German, and opportunities for girls, until recent times, have been limited.
Kristin Eyfells, the eldest of six children, grew up admiring her father, a rural doctor serving Icelandic families. He recognized her keen intellect early on and took her with him on his visits to his patients living on isolated farms throughout the territory. Very early in her life she developed an unquenchable ambition to make large contributions. Her interests were many. She loved clothing and design, psychology, music, photography and especially visual arts. By the time she met Jóhann Eyfells in Berkeley, California in 1948, she was already a very independent dress designer and businesswoman. She owned a dress shop in Reykjavik, while attending design school in Berkeley.
By the 1950’s, she was married to Jóhann and embarking on a new career as a painter and sculptor. Kristin would leave a lucrative career as a clothing industry entrepreneur to become a visual artists. Jóhann, would also eventually distance himself away from working as a licensed architect and ambitiously devote his life as a fine artist. With a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from the University of Florida, she continued her studies in fine art, applying all of her experiences and education toward her goal of producing formidable art.
What is great art? Simply put, it is art that has the power to change your thinking in a “truthful” way. It does not shock or offend, rather it brings you to new insights and heightens your esthetic appreciation of the world. This is what Kristin Eyfells attempted to do when she began painting people. Her most ambitious and recognized body of work is entitled “Famous Faces“, in which all of her subjects are people of notoriety. Not all of her subjects were famous though. She did a body of work entitled “Anonymous Faces” that reveal her subjects’ deepest feelings and strengths. In this series she wanted to focus on women whose surface beauty is defined by a mask of make up, yet still exposing underneath another more subtle mask of defensiveness, which suggests that Kristin, in spite of this double mask (mask within a mask) carried by her subjects, had the uncanny ability to reveal the inner beauty and vulnerability of the person through the layers of paint and color.
After 32 years of producing “great art”, Kristin Eyfells died in Orlando, Florida from complications brought on by a stroke. She was 85 years old. In 2003, Jóhann Eyfells moved to Fredericksburg, Texas from Orlando, and brought with him both his large body of work as well as Kristin’s. It was a monumental undertaking, but it presented him with a new challenge of being and creating without his life partner. He continues to work to this day on new bodies of work, and his major goal for the remaining years of his life is to see Kristin Eyfells, the artist, move to the forefront of American art. Presently, her “Famous Faces” series is being exhibited at the International Museum of Art and Science (IMAS) in McAllen, Texas.
We, here in the Hill Country, are lucky to have Kristin Halldorsdottir Eyfells’ large body of work housed at the Eyfells & Eyfells Sculpture & Art Ranch, just 5 miles west of Fredericksburg, Texas. Jóhann, her husband of 52 years, is also exhibiting her “Anonymous Faces” series in the Sunken Gallery. Outdoor visitors are welcome to come and visit anytime and see this exceptional collection.
The last part of our journey was no less amazing. Johann’s niece, Margret and her husband Kale invited us to stay in the northern territory of Iceland, in Akureyri, where we stayed for the next two nights. The flight north with Air Iceland was also a treat since we were invited to accompany and film the pilots in the cockpit, one of whom happened to be Margret and Kale’s son. Once on the ground, our guide Kale would drive us 100’s of kilometers through lava fields, along coastal roads, into volcanoes and finally to one of the largest waterfalls in Europe, Dettifoss , one of the most spectacular sites I’d ever experienced.