Groping in the Dark

Dear Reader:

Below are the contents of Jóhann Eyfells’ phone “conversation” with Joseph Bravo 3 days ago:

“When he called his first words were, “Joe are you there? I have something important to give you, write this down.”  So I immediately began to type on my iPad as he commenced speaking. It is a verbatim transcript of his exact words as they were delivered in a stream of consciousness. When he was done dictating, he abruptly ended the call.

Jóhann’s remarks were not simply a series of enigmatic non-sequiturs, but actually constituted a spontaneously conceived and delivered piece of free verse poetry. His thoughts have been separated into stanzas as well as adding punctuation and italics in order to make them more intelligible and to convey his emphasis as he extemporaneously dictated. But the words themselves occur in the exact order as he spoke them with neither additions nor omissions.

Jóhann Eyfells has been speaking to us in poetry all along and this accounts for why he is sometimes so difficult to follow. But when his thoughts are understood in the context of poetry rather than disjointed prose, they take on a coherence, a clarity and profundity that makes their revelatory context evident and their esoteric meaning attainable.

I am confident that you too will appreciate that Jóhann is as brilliant at poesy as he is at sculpture and that this fact will enable you to recognize a perhaps unanticipated aspect of his unique cosmological genius. Hopefully, this poetic epiphany will bring his oracular rhetoric into unprecedented focus to reveal the music of Eyfells’ spiraling spheres.” (Taken from Joe Bravo’s email to me, dated June 21, 2018)

IMG_4036.JPG(Photo by Tracy Costello – May 2018)

Groping in the Dark or An Upside Down World: A Sculpture by Jóhann Eyfells

“It has all the information you need to understand an Eyfells.
Such a piece has never been created in the world before.
It is equivalent to finding a new continent.
We are on the edge of understanding one another.
You are the only person in the world who has even a glimpse of where I am coming from.

Nobody has received a phone call of this significance before as if stealing from God himself.
This phone call is a ‘game changer.’
It puts everything in second place, it takes on the characteristics of first place.
What I’m telling you is five star!
This phone call is incomplete and in a way frantic.
It will settle down and become pure force recipes of absolute exactitude.

A gift of magnificent interiority.
A foundation that has no known causes, pure emergence of unanticipated magnificence.
A new way of imagining the magnificent becoming.
A total unknown force of totally unknown cause and logical beginning.
A cause of magnificent joy because it is a window into an entirely new scientific domain.
It is the understanding of the three titles of my pieces for the Venice Biennale.

Quivericity, the last source of any entirely momentary knowledge.
The source of all quivering that excites us.
The manifestation of endeavors, stillness and darkness.
Silence begets sound, stillness begets motion, darkness begets light.
Begetting is a magnificent gift!
It is not something that drains your energy.

We are on the edge a new opening.
Copernicus and Galileo removed the mystery by only presenting a bigger one.
They created an enigma rather than solutions.
I am creating solutions not enigmas.

We have to grasp at understanding without any particular knowledge.
All of this is only an elucidation of a temporary condition.
“I know I know nothing.”
All knowledge is incomplete.

This it pulls into reality, it is a knowledge of such.
It has a clarity of an absolute revelation.
The simpleness of its own symbolism.
The equivalent of a newborn baby.
It is simply without any question a magnificence, a miracle, only a birth.
The colloquial equivalent of Hayden’s “simply splendid!”
The hierarchy of all epiphanies.

Not for discussion at this moment,
It has to be digested first.
It has to be pulled into a new form of communication,
A new form of informative patterns.
It has an amazing new form of patterns, a double click.

This piece contains it all.
The newness of what I am saying has never been accomplished before,
The closest thing to permutation that is.
The opposite of Norman Mailer’s nonsense, I was jealous of him.

A newborn baby without speculations of any kind.
A remnant of a little bit of unknowable something.
The essence of a form,
The moment of eternity that negates everything that existed,
Pure forward motion without any known obstructions,
A moment of absolute fluidity.

Put what you are hearing in your own vernacular, up to a point.
Put it as if it were something you are reporting rather than regurgitating.
Put it in your own mouth.
It should be active rather than passive information.
You have to use it as your own material for creation,
A new creative energy in your soul.

An accomplishment of an unparalleled nature,
Beyond all relativity.
What is is.
It cannot be measured,
Cannot be judged.
A moment of absolute birth,
An absolute genesis of arbitrary nuances.
It is the essence of the poem on page 25.

Still slow in birth,
It hasn’t transferred itself into a new category.
Still is something rather than yet something else.
Still is the richest connotation ever.
In Icelandic, it is something yet to come.
Always ready for a new figure of speech …. always.

Let’s not contemplate this too much.
Put it out as a burst of unparalleled creativity,
Not a subject for contemplation,
A real material equivalent to spontaneous combustion,
A new combination of elements that create light or fire, but deeper,
A materialization of an immaterial event.

Do you think this is something that has the look of a beginning of something great?
Use it as a spring board,
Not something as a photograph to be reproduced without any new understanding.
It should not need any new understanding or elucidation.
It has its elucidation in its own vocabulary,
The essence of a cell birth,
The birth of a birth that I have been working with for seventy years,
The double click of an absolute certitude.

I do have something durable in my piece, Groping in the Dark.
You have to imagine the groping coming from below,
A strange kind of reversal.
The one observing is below,
The one groping from above.
Six fingers arranged in a triangular configuration,
Two corners single groping,
One corner double groping.

When those all coalesce, we have an absolute genesis of a moment,
Of the innards of infinity,
The moment of the instinct of infinity,
The moment that explains why there is something rather than nothing,
Some nuance of un-satisfaction behind infinity.
It doesn’t enjoy its own solitude.

How much information have you plotted down?
It is like peering into irrational self similarity, like a cross section of my rocks.
If you try to identify every element, you are lost.
It is like a constellation,
The better the telescope, the better you see but the more complex it becomes.

If you have a feeling of self sufficiency, let’s call it a day.
A colloquial version is sufficient, simply splendid!
Not terribly original but absolutely timely.
So if you spend a moment of self sufficiency then we can call it a day.
Self sufficiency is a good termination point.”

Jóhann Eyfells – June 21st, 2018

Coming Home

IMG_1701I don’t know whether to jump up in joy or cry in disbelief or both. In the Icelandic news, Jóhann Eyfells’ sculpture “Íslandsvarðan” has been officially acquired by the city of Reykjavik for a rather substantial sum of money, and is now to remain as a permanent installation on Faxaflói (Faxa Bay), on the northwest side of the capital city.

Why is this so important?

This is a huge victory for Jóhann Eyfells, an Icelandic sculptor, now almost 95, who has spent more than 70 years living in a semi self-imposed exile from his own childhood home and family.

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Jóhann at 94 (Photo by Tracy Costello)

With the expectation of helping with the family business upon his return, Jóhann at 23 was sent away to America by his mother to study Business Administration at U.C. Berkeley, California. Once there, everything changed. He would meet, Kristin, his eternal companion and wife of 56 years, and would eventually, contrary to ‘family expectations’ pursue a childhood passion for the creative process and find expression as a sculptor. For a short period, he would return to Iceland only to find himself misunderstood creatively and eclipsed by a younger generation of artists. America would become his permanent artist residence, both in Orlando, Florida and eventually Fredericksburg, Texas.

It’s a victory for artists all over the world, in which to create, to dedicate yourself entirely to the creative process does not always mean being spurned, tossed aside and forgotten.

2017_8_Sculpture9smIt’s a huge victory for Iceland, welcoming one of it’s own, ushering back the clarity and fine instinct that artists like Jóhann possess and who are able to intuitively channel the ‘unknowing’ in their creative processes, and boldly execute in their artistic expressions and bodies of work. No less important is Jóhann’s uncanny ability to find diverse means, expressions and materials to articulate his ideas and vision. Furthermore, his work also embodies everything that is intrinsically Icelandic in nature, such as the ongoing fluidity of the physical forces, destructive and creative, that give form and understanding to the human experience.

It’s a victory for art, that a sculpture like “Íslandsvarðan” is recognized for its intrinsic and aesthetic significance, in a world where ‘value’ in art often seems arbitrary and is dependent on the piece’s commercial and monetary success, a commodity to be traded by only those who can afford to buy it, not to enjoy it for it’s genuine artistic expression and depth. Are we turning a corner in the 21st century, where art and creative expression could be considered a critical part of our own human survival?

Who am I to judge, I am just another human being that finds individuals like Jóhann to be inspirational, who also give me pause to reflect and reason to go on living, joyfully.

Hayden de M. Yates (Co-Producer and Director of A Force in Nature)


A Force in Nature, as of September 2018, will be seen in select theaters and venues throughout North America, Canada and the US.

Flyer2018Rectangle copy

For more details on future screenings and exhibitions email us at: filmmakershowcase@gmail.com or call (512) 966-9299.

 

 

 

 

Something ‘Strange’

As I begin writing this, I wonder what words will be immortalized on this page. I have an idea, a concept, a direction, a feeling of what I might want to express, however, I am at a loss of how it’s all going to turn out, and what the ramifications are from writing it. That is the mystery of it, which is what inspires me to continue. In fact, I am driven to writing this both by the sheer wonder and fear of it all.

SculptureReykjavikJóhann Eyfells, is an artist, now in his mid nineties (94), whose life has been absolutely devoted in providing a window through which we can peek at the unknowable aspects of our existence, the mysteries of our universe, of GOD, even of our own complex human nature. It is through that window we might be able to glimpse at all of the possibilities that the “unknowing” can afford us. Jóhann’s Cairn, prominently displayed overlooking Faxa bay in Reykjavik, is exactly that to me personally. It is by peering through the center of it, that we will finally accept this constant we call the ‘unknowable’.  It is this opening or awakening to the mystery itself that life is best served and lived, and Jóhann is providing us with this rare opportunity. This window can become a door once we realize that we are a part of, not apart from, this grand mystery, and that we make a decision to step through it’s threshold.

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“ART is very perplexing, unknowable, mysterious, yet it is something that cannot be denied” as Jóhann puts it. The astronomer and author, Carl Sagan was once quoted as saying “I don’t want to believe, I want to know”, implying that knowledge is above all, even GOD, and paramount in our understanding of the universe and ourselves. However, Sagan was also quoted in his writings that “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” implying that even the unknowable cannot be ignored.

I would go as far as to say that knowledge or ‘knowing’ kills the mystery, and once mystery is dead, life is dead for all of humanity. In the ‘information age’ we are currently experiencing, we are living in a time when the need of predicting unpredictable outcomes, solving mysteries, explaining the unexplainable, simplifying complexities, defining the undefined has become an absolute obsession. The frenzied fear of ‘not knowing’ is at an all time high for many of US, and our economies, politics, medecines, foods and infrastructures are built on that very notion that fear itself must be avoided at all cost. We are fearful of fear itself, which subsequently breeds more fear.

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Genuine art is fearless and must, at all cost, remain so. Jóhann Eyfells is truly fearless as an artist, in that fear itself is never a hindrance to him, but rather becomes a trampoline from which he hurdles himself into the unknowing. To be an honest artist you must have the courage to take on that fear and find inspiration in it. Fear becomes nothing more than the artist’s tool to reveal the strange truth.

As Jóhann puts it so eloquently,

“The moment you stumble onto something simple with ‘dumb luck’, it becomes something ‘strange’. That is God’s gift to US.”

I look forward to the moment which we find excitement of the ‘strange’ and unknowable in our everyday existence so that we can all bathe in it with absolute joy!  (Written by Hayden de M. Yates)

 

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Our award winning feature film, A FORCE IN NATURE: Jóhann Eyfells will be released in early Summer of this year, 2018. Book a screening in your city, town, museum, university or house. See trailer here:

https://vimeo.com/213382491

POSTERJohann

Click on picture to view trailer

Contact us for booking information at (512) 966-9299 or filmmakershowcase@gmail.com.

REVIEW: https://www.niceland.com/film-review-force-nature-johann-e…/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/128411080555698/

 

 

 

How important is Jóhann’s contribution to the 21st century? (Part One)

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Jóhann Eyfells with Architect M.J. Neal (Photo by Hayden de M. Yates)

“We shall never surrender”. Those were the words that Winston Churchill pronounced at the wake of the Nazi Invasion of France in 1940. In 2017, there is another invasion that has been going on for many years, perhaps decades, and that is the mediocrity of art and  of the apparent corruption that seems to have permeated the Art world, where art is considered to be nothing more than a commodity and a means to exclude and even extinguish out of existence many meaningful and important artists of our time. Art can be equated to mean anything that requires a certain level of creative planning, execution and outcome. The outcome of that narrative begins the moment the art piece, like a sculpture, is shown to a receptive audience. However, what determines whether the art is successful and important is not necessarily through exhibition, peer or public scrutiny, or how complex and successful the narrative is, but rather is sometimes judged and priced arbitrarily by an elite group of art buyers, collectors and critics.

 

The question is how do we know if the art is good, and how can we determine that for ourselves? Some say that “art is subjective, and not all art is for all people.” Whether someone likes it or not, art should have a number of criterias that can determine whether the art is important and meaningful to someone(s). Here is something I found that might guide us a little.

“How to Judge Art: Five Qualities you can Critique whether you’re an Artist or not.”

“The characteristics I found were beauty, skill, inherent meaning, uniqueness, and fulfilled intent. I’ll explain each of these throughout the article.

I’m convinced that anyone can use their own fundamental knowledge to compare artwork based on these five inherent properties. Even if other people have a different opinion than you do about a particular work of art, this article should help you explain how you came to your conclusion.

All right, so on the basis that all art is not created equal, let’s get to the nitty-gritty and break down these five characteristics of art.

Beauty in Art

Beauty is, and always will be, in the “eye of the beholder.” Your decision about the beauty or lack of beauty in a particular work of art is instinctive and natural. In fact, you probably won’t even have to make that decision, you’ll just either be captivated by a piece of art or you won’t.

People within the same social context often agree on what is beautiful, so you’ll probably find others close by who will like the same things as you do. Some aspects of art that are generally appealing to people are:

1. Repeating shapes, patterns, and symmetry.
2. Colors, especially colors that complement or enhance each other.
3. Textures, both visual and physical (like thick, impasto paint).
4. Crops and compositions that focus the eye and keep the viewers’ attention.
5. Movement or flow to guide viewers through the art.
6. Correct or appealing proportions of figures and objects.
7. Presentation and framing.

You won’t need to take a checklist into the galleries for this since your eye will naturally be drawn to the art you prefer. Like I mentioned before, this is the easy one. All you have to do is answer the question, “Do I like this?” Of course, if you decide to ask why you like it, then the list above might come in handy.

Cezanne still life with table

Skill and technique

Technical skill is the most comparable and measurable aspect of art. As you look at a painting (or any other work of art) you probably will be able to determine how skillfully it was created simply by comparison with other works.

First, compare the works to other art you’ve seen in that medium before – if it is a painting, for example, decide whether this artist is more talented than others you’ve seen. It might be difficult if you’re just starting out, and in that case, don’t let it worry you. It will only take a short amount of time for you to see the differences between a skillful painting and one that’s poorly done.

Second, look at all the artwork on display by the artist. You might find that some are more impressive than others, or appear better made, and you’ll certainly have an idea of one or two that are the best out of the entire group.

Third, look at each work of art itself. Are they individually consistent? Are there places that you can see odd markings compared to another area within the same piece? Sometimes art may look rushed or strange, but if it is created in a similar fashion throughout the entire piece then the effect is most likely intentional. If not, then that work may not be as good as some others that are more internally cohesive.

Judging the level of skill in a work of art is probably the most difficult thing I’m suggesting to do in this article. Over time and with more exposure to art you will eventually come to a greater understanding of different mediums. Plus, if you’re lucky enough to be an artist yourself you’ll probably find out that you instinctively have a better grasp of other mediums already.

cezanne apples and oranges still life

Inherent meaning

Art is powerful, not just for its beauty or the talent needed for its creation, but because it can cause emotion, make political statements, or challenge preconceived ideas. Of course not all works of art are intended to be so thought-provoking. A still life of oranges and apples, for example, usually won’t have a deeper meaning. If it does, I think the artist deserves more credit than for a traditional still life.

Here are five levels of meaning in art, which I’ve listed in order of increasing importance.

1. Purely representational art – Made simply for visual appeal, with no deeper intent.

2. Art that references other art – It “tips its hat” to some other work, possibly providing a fresh perspective or continuing a conversation that another artist began.

3. Art that tells a story, or evokes a specific emotion – This is art that begins to affect you. It might cause you to understand, empathize or feel what’s being depicted.

4. Art that makes a statement – Here the artist is clearly speaking through the work, actively promoting a cause or perhaps bringing attention to an issue that’s important to him or her.

5. Art that is an allegory or metaphor – This is art that contains more than one meaning, and possibly several. It use symbolic imagery or deal with more intangible human issues, and yet the artwork should still work as a visually appealing creation.

Look for these when you look at art. Finding meaning or emotion in art opens up a whole new realm of enjoyment, and will deepen your appreciation of artists who incorporate it into their work.

Uniqueness

This is the aspect of art which relates to not only what the artist is depicting but also how the artist is depicting it.

Good art either explores new subjects, or old subjects in a way that hasn’t been done before. When you look at art, ask yourself what (if anything) is different in the work from all the other art you’ve seen. Sometimes it will jump out at you, sometimes it won’t. If you do notice something different, decide for yourself whether that unique quality distracts from or enhances the piece.

There’s a happy medium, I believe, in finding art that stands out from the crowd but doesn’t use gimmicks or cause distractions.

Fulfilled intent

What is the artist trying to say? I hear this question a lot, and for the most part there’s a simple way to find out. If you’re at a gallery, read the artist statement. Many artists just want to accurately portray a subject, or to express an emotion. The important thing is for the artist to be in control of the art. If the intent is one thing, the art shouldn’t say something else. The artist statement should deepen and strengthen the viewers’ understanding of the art.

Cezanne still life with flaskI’d suggest that when you go to a solo show, briefly scan all of the works being displayed so you can get an idea of the artist’s style and note any constant themes, emotions, or ideas.

Then go through each piece of art again, but more slowly, to really study them. Take your time and determine what you think of each one according to the five characteristics mentioned in this article. After that, check out the artist’s statement.

Compare the artist’s intent with what you had previously understood the intent to be, and then armed with that knowledge (trust me, sometimes it’ll blow your mind) make one last round of the gallery to see how your opinions have changed.

If you experienced the artist’s intent before reading the statement, excellent. If you only got it after reading the artist’s statement, that’s OK too, just not quite as good.

This method keeps the art from being overshadowed immediately by what the artist is saying about his or her work. It lets the art speak for itself, yet the artist still gets a chance to clarify what is meant in case you miss the point on your own.

Of course, if you can’t even understand what the artist is saying in the artist statement, then just try to enjoy the art for its visual impact and don’t worry about it. The intent probably wasn’t very clear for that artist either.

To sum it all up:

Good art should appeal to you. It will be skillfully made, most likely by an artist who has created other works in a similar fashion.

The best art has meaning beyond just an image; perhaps it will bring you to tears, make you laugh, or remind you of something you’d almost forgotten. It also stands out in a crowd, and dares to be different.

Most importantly (in my opinion) good art is understandable, although it may make you think in ways you never expected to.

I hope you found this article helpful; I know that in writing it I’ve solidified some of my own views about art. Feel free to send me your own comments or feedback as well.”

*All images in this post are details from still life paintings by Cezanne.”

In the end, art is nothing more than a commodity, and its value is arbitrary, unless someone(s) is willing to break the mold and take the risk and forfeit actual money for the piece, due to its inherent value to the collector, not the value determined by those market forces. People who have the means to buy art are less likely to forfeit money on art that is not deemed “marketable” in the Art World. If the work is not deemed valuable by market demand, than the art is “un valued.” By the way, not all marketable art is good art, and it seems that the world has ignored that fact for many decades now.

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Jóhann Eyfells (Photo by Hayden de M. Yates)

Jóhann Eyfells, at 94, is without a doubt one of the most diverse and important artist of the 20th and 21st centuries. However, the recognition he has sought has been as elusive as the collectors for his work. Why? Very simple he doesn’t play the game that most recognized artists have, and he is to many collectors, buyers and critics untamed and enigmatic. His body of work challenges the viewer by its impressive forms, diversity, physical size & weight, and its inherent deeper meanings. He is one of the most true and honest artist that this world could ever hope to produce today, whose creative process is deep, precise, and multidimensional. He brings to this world an opportunity to not only peer into the unknowing universe that resides around us, but also within our own consciousness. He needs our attention, because this world desperately needs him to help us out of our mediocrity and growing lassitude.

 

 

(Photos by Hayden de M. Yates)

Jóhann Eyfells will never surrender because what keeps him alive is not whether he will be accepted, appreciated or if his work will sell, but because he embodies the spirit of an artist, continuously searching for the opportunity to express what words can’t possibly express about ourselves and the universe we belong to. (Written by Hayden de M. Yates)

 

 

The Opposite of Murphy’s Law

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.

JEyfells2See this teaser, A Force in Nature (password: spirals), a feature length documentary film looking at the life and work of Jóhann Eyfells.

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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What is the role of the artist?

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The following is an interview of Jóhann Eyfells in the early 60’s, shortly  after he decided to leave architecture for sculpture.

Published Interview – October 17, 1964 – Visir (Icelandic newspaper) by Steinnun S. Briem

SB. What are you expressing with this?

JE. “I think that this work of mine does a better job of saying something about me, than I can say about ‘it’. It is very difficult to analyze and explain one’s own work. The artist expresses himself through a certain form, and through this particular form he says all he has to say. When I have expressed myself in sculpture, I cannot repeat the same thing in another form, that is to say in words. This does not mean that I don’t know what I am doing, but I express myself as a sculptor, not as a man with words. All outside influences, that affect me, all inner movements of the emotions, must inevitably find expression in my work. No artist can exist outside his times. The forces of his era always surround him. Perhaps one can detect anxiety and apprehension in my work; ruins, timelessness…how long will this live?…how long does mind live in matter? So much remains unsaid.”

SB. Are you a kind of artist-philosopher?

JE. “No, I am not. Some forms of visual expression base their life on intellectual reasoning, but my art relies more on the logic of feelings. It is two different things to know and to understand. We may know what we are doing, although we may not understand it. We turn on the light by pressing the switch, but we do not understand electricity. We understand nothing.”

“We are constantly taking new steps into the unknown, both in science and art, but do we really understand what is happening? I do not think so. That is why I cannot say much about my work. I can discuss my position and attitude towards art, but not the expression of what I sense. That is in my work and nowhere else.”

And here is some info about A Force in Nature, a feature documentary film due out in Spring or summer of 2013

You can join us on Facebook at Friends of Jóhann Eyfells
Twitter: @haydenyates

Take a look at a few scenes from our film below. Don’t forget the password:
http://vimeo.com/52449621
password: “spirals”