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

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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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Jóhann Eyfells takes on the art world.

David Hickey (born circa 1939) is an American art and cultural critic. He has written for many American publications including Rolling Stone, Art News, Art in America, Artforum, Harper’s Magazine, and Vanity Fair. He is currently Professor of English at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and Distinguished Professor of Criticism for the MFA Program in the Department of Art & Art History at the University of New Mexico.

John Rajchman (born June 25, 1946) is a philosopher working in the areas of art history, architecture, and continental philosophy.  John Rajchman is an Adjunct Professor[1] and Director of Modern Art M.A. Programs in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University. He has previously taught at Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Collège International de Philosophie in Paris, and The Cooper Union, among others. He is a Contributing Editor for Artforum and is on the board of Critical Space. John Rajchman received a B.A., from Yale University and Ph.D., from Columbia University.

My challenge to both John Rajchman and David Hickey:

Dave Hickey, in the 1990’s, stated “nothing new has happened for 30 years.” I don’t agree. I feel, Mr. Hickey has to redeem himself. He has to reevaluate that statement. He says that nothing new has happened during my lifetime. That made me loose interest in investigating what he was saying. In fact, I don’t think I read anything by him since that statement because I judged it all worthless. I need a different kind of attention. As a thinker and an artist, I need to be aroused, not be put to sleep. In a way, putting people to sleep is common now. They should be giving lectures to a group of cows. No kidding! Have you ever seen a cow look up? They don’t look up. They just act like “life is wonderful.”

John Rajchman I believe does have an insight in what I do as an artist. Yet, I also question some of what he writes. He stated that “The house (materiality of life) has not been designed yet”. The word ‘design’ in this context I find questionable. It implies that creation or birth is intentional and that there is a Creator behind it. That’s a very culturally correct phrase to say, yet in my mind, birth is unintentional in it’s purity. John Rajchman writes “the jurisprudence of the singular,” I say, “the laws of chance.”

My fundamental questions to people are, does infinity have to have a starting point? Are beginnings the opposite of infinity? Is everything made of two halves?
If you ask a scientist today why the solar system works the way it does, his response would probably be because it simply does. There is a word for the solar system in Icelandic which literally means “Circular Nonsense.”
This acceptance of nonsense or unexplained events around us is the basis of faith. Even though it is nonsense, we have to have faith in it, in order to enjoy it. Chaos and delirium are necessary, for we should accept them for what they are. They are simply things without an end product or result. My recent sculpture, Plus and Minus Zero, represents the eternal synthesis of the infinite past with the infinite future. It’s the strangest unity in the universe. It’s also hard to distinguish between a Creator/Super Author and the actual creation or product. It’s a synthesis of contrast.

Only eternity is autonomous and self sufficient, and only a birth implies an absolute critic. We need a new perspective, period.”

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Dave Hickey’s response made April 24, 2012:

“I was wrong. I am writing a book called Pagan America to make up for it, so I’ll have to wait for redemption. Thanks.”  David Hickey