How important is Jóhann Eyfells art to the 21st Century? (part two)

I thought I would continue a discussion on the merits of art, but this time from the point of view of an art historian, critic and curator. Here is what Joseph Bravo wrote about an important art installation in the city of Reykjavik, Iceland, the Icelandic Cairn created by Jóhann Eyfells.

The Icelandic Cairn

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“During my recent trip to Iceland, I was glad to discover that the significance of Johann’s artistic achievements was appreciated by art historians and museum administrators in his homeland. While Johann may have spent a large portion of his creative life in the U.S., he has been and always will be an Icelandic artist. My recent trip to your beautiful country only further convinced me of the inextricable link between Iceland and the aesthetic optic of this extraordinary artist. 

The Icelandic landscape, the national character and the cultural context of Eyfell’s artistic practice are all clearly evident in his body of work. While his ideas and aesthetics have been in dialogue with the wider international art canon, the orientation of Johann’s inquiry is fundamentally connected to Icelandic indigenous perspectives and the instincts he derives from the landscape. Hayden de M. Yates’ cinematic biopic, “A Force In Nature: Johann Eyfells“, that premiered last week at RIFF, is aptly titled because the artist’s practice has been conceived from its inception to function as a force indistinguishable from nature. For Johann, both his existence and artwork are themselves the result of natural phenomena. 

Eyfell’s “Icelandic Cairn” sculpture currently on display in Reykjavik is of particular significance because it represents one of the most ambitious achievements in his bronze “Cairn” series. This series, perhaps as much if not more than any other in his deep oeuvre, bears the most literal testimony to the relationship between the artist’s aesthetic and the history of covalence between Icelanders and their physical environment. Johann Eyfell’s work has functioned on so many levels and touched on so many issues of art theory as to represent a heroic intellectual achievement spanning the scope of 20th century aesthetic priorities. In this important piece, he addresses conceptual issues of physics and metaphysics. The artist investigates organic form and environmentalism, chaos and hyper-complexity, superfluidity and spontaneity, the distinction between instinct and intuition, truth to materials and their iconographic implications, abstract expressionism vs. simulacrum as well as cosmopolitanism and indigenous cultural context. The artist’s expansive curiosity has allowed him to use his artistic practice as a mechanism of cosmological intellectual inquiry touching on an infinite number of theoretical facets. In “Icelandic Cairn”, he has achieved a masterwork of intellectual and aesthetic speculation. Eyfells has accomplished this without being derivative and while creating some of the most ground breaking sculptures in the history of Icelandic art in particular. His artwork is technically and conceptually innovative by any standard hence his intellectual contributions are of international significance to the wider global art canon. 

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The current site of the “Icelandic Cairn” sculpture is in many ways ideal as it faces out over the Faxafói Bay and symbolically connects Reykjavik with Mt. Esja. The aperture at the sculpture’s center ensures that the vista of Esja is never obscured and makes for a respectful compliment to the awe inspiring landscape. Its position along both pedestrian and automotive thoroughfares as well as its visibility from the sea affords optimum appreciation of the sculpture by local residents and visitors alike. Its proximity to other important sculptures allows it to convey gravity in keeping with the curatorial context of public artworks in the vicinity and is essential in the creation of a consistent and poetic narrative along the shoreline. Even its placement on the rubble stone base lends elegance to its appropriate presentation. Those responsible for its original installation are to be commended on their foresight and good judgment in how this was technically managed. 

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It is my sincerest hope that the “Icelandic Cairn” sculpture by Johann Eyfells becomes a permanent fixture in the civic landscape of Reykjavik. The citizens of the city and the nation of Iceland are indeed fortunate to have such an important artwork. It stands as yet another reason for well-deserved Icelandic cultural pride. Johann Eyfells is an Icelandic national treasure and one for which the rest of the world owes a debt of gratitude to Iceland for spawning and inspiring him to create such edifying artistic achievements.”   Joseph Bravo

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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:  https://vimeo.com/135532487

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

An insight from Jóhann – Light, Sound and Movement

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.

http://vimeo.com/52449621

password: “spirals”

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Receptual Cairn V

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Receptual Cairn V - Photo by Hayden de M. Yates

 

“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