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.
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.
Since Monday, we have been traveling through some of the most remote and breath taking areas of Iceland, and here are some photos of the actual shoot to prove it. Anderson Seal, from Newport Beach, California, is our camera assistant extraordinaire and friend, and we are so lucky to have him with us. Ingólfur Eyfells, Jóhann Eyfells’ son, has been our amazing guide, cultural attaché and location coordinator, and the rest of his family have been so gracious and kind to accommodate us these last 2 days and throughout the three weeks we will be in Iceland.
The first part of our journey, Chapter 1, was meticulously organized and guided by Jóhann Eyfells’ son, Ingólfur Eyfells. Being a project manager of a company that is solely in charge of operating Iceland’s electricity transmission grid, and also an avid hiker and adventurer, Ingólfur’s knowledge of the interior country and its people was critical in our search for images that captured the very essence of this incredibly beautiful country. His own experiences growing up as a child also led us to places where we gained valuable insight into the lore, history and culture of the Icelandic people.
The Ghost Crevasse was one such place, where it is said that spirits that were lurking and bothering the local farmers below were relocated to this large crevasse in the hills so that they could move on to the afterlife. When we did hike through and into the crevice and reached its very depths, it occurred to us that there was not a single sound that could be heard, except that which came from our own breaths and footsteps. Once inside this tall, naturally shaped, spiraling cathedral, we completely felt alone in another world along with the absolute stillness that seem to echo the mysteries of the world unknown. This experience alone has without a doubt made a deep impression in my own psyche. Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence has taken on a whole new meaning for me.
With Ingólfur, we must have traveled hundreds of miles of dirt roads to see and experience some of the most breathtaking landscapes the world has ever created. Iceland is an island that continues to be formed and changed by its volcanic nature and temperament, so the landscapes are ever changing and diverse.
I want to take this opportunity to welcome an extremely talented and loyal friend, Ciaran Hope, to our team. Please take an opportunity to read about this man’s accomplishments and life.
Since first dipping his toes into the film mecca of Hollywood in the late 90’s, Irish composer Ciaran has diligently spent his time working for prestigious film and production companies, projects, and organizations. To this day, his original pieces are shaped from a rigorous, distinguished artistic training and strong affinity with the music.
As a former Fulbright Scholar in film music, Ciaran has been the recipient of awards such as the IMRO prize at the RTE Musician of the Future, the International Solstice Composition Prize, a National Training Commission for Film and Television Bursary, an Arts Council of Ireland Postgraduate Award and his music was a finalist at the International Clarinet Association Composition Contest and the International Song for Peace Contest, while his work on the Hollywood feature film The Insider was nominated for a Golden Globe Award.
Ciaran has been commissioned to create classical pieces for prestigious cultural groups and organizations such as the Czech Clarinet Quartet and the Latvian Ministry of Arts and Culture and the Solstice Arts Centre in Navan, where his new work will be the signature tune for the centre and will be played before performances, at launches, exhibition openings and other publicity events. His recent commission for children’s string orchestra, titled “A Spring Morning” premiered on the main concert stage at Euro Disney and the Church of Sainte-Merri in Paris during the summer of 2011 and the reaction from the performers, parents and audience was phenomenal.
Since being awarded an Arts Council of Ireland Project Bursary Award to write a new violin concerto for violinist Cora Venus Lunny, violinist and composer have been collaborating closely on the new concerto. Ciaran has also undertaken residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Artist’s retreat in Co. Monaghan and the Cill Rialaig Artist Retreat in remote Co. Kerry to work on the concerto, with the kind support of a 2011 Tyrone Guthrie Centre regional Bursary Award and a 2012 Cill Rialaig Residency Award.
Internationally, Ciaran’s music has been performed at showcases such as the Electro-acoustic music Festival of Cadiz, the Symposium of Brazilian Computer Music and the Logan Chamber Music Series in the famed Chautauqua Institute, New York. This year, his music was selected for performance at the second Beijing Irish Modern Music Festival of Beijing on March 18th 2012. He has also contributed music towards films that have been featured at over 40 film festivals around the world and have enjoyed commercial success in the U.S. entertainment industry as a composer for major entertainment companies, including Walt Disney, Trimark Pictures, Alcon Entertainment, TomandAndy, and Alliance Atlantis.
Commercially, his 2006 album, Etude in Film Score, was so successful that it made the top 40 sales at CDBaby.com in its first month. A track from the album, “Childhood Ends,” was selected for inclusion on an exclusive, limited release CDBaby promotional CD due to the album’s success.
Ciaran has also participated in BMI’s prestigious Conducting Workshop, where an elite group of 8 composers out of their 400,000 membership are chosen to spend two weeks working intensely with a conductor and live musicians at the musicians union in Los Angeles. His ‘classmates’ included World Soundtrack Award Winning and Golden Globe nominated composer Abel Korzeniowski, BMI Award winner Juan Carlos Rodriguez and Emmy nominated Annie winning composer Guy Moon.
As a speaker, Ciaran have given master classes on composing for film at a variety of venues including Trinity College Dublin, the Dundalk Institute of Technology, the University of Colorado at Denver and the Solstice Arts Centre in Navan. In December 2010, at the behest of the Provost Dr. John Hegarty, he organized a panel discussion that took place in the Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin which focused on music placement and scoring in film and TV and gave master classes on film composition to Trinity postgraduate and undergraduate music students. The panel sold out in 3 days.
With a Masters degree in audio acoustics and a keen interest in all things audio, Ciaran has also published several research papers in audio acoustics and is currently exploring a new research project into the sonic stimulation of cell cultures at the world famous Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Having completed writing and recording string arrangements for producer Noel Hogan of The Cranberries, his new score to the new Hollywood feature film Truth About Kerry starring Stana Katic(ABC’s CASTLE) is being very well received. It has just been announced that Ciaran was awarded the position of Composer in Residence for 2013 in the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, where he will work on a new opera on the life of Robert Emmet.
“The piece you are looking at above is titled “Receptual Cairn V”, a powerful representation of two significant ideas. First, the idea of “receptualism”, a neologism which encompasses Eyfells’ conceptual approach to art, teaches us that existence is very fragile, organic and inorganic. Although this piece seems so massive and indestructible, it is quite fragile and temporary. This “power of passage” eliminates time, and we are left with an unencumbered reality which is calming. Secondly, the cairn, a way finding symbol, expresses the primal nature of necessity and chance, for Jóhann Eyfells did not create this piece with hammer and chisel, rather he let it form itself from molten materials poured into molds then fired at the foundry.” Sherryl Brown