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.
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 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
Johann Eyfells is a sculptor, architect, and art professor. He was born in 1923 in Reykjavik, Iceland. In 1949, he married Kristin Halldorsdottir, a former Icelandic model and dress designer, who made her own career as an artist alongside of his. He has studied at several universities, earning a bachelor’s degree in architecture in 1953 and a master’s degree in fine art in 1964.
Eyfells began producing abstract sculptures in the 60’s based on experiments in chemistry and physics, utilizing the various transformational properties of metals, especially aluminum, iron and copper. Minimal in nature, his art is non-objective and often conceptual in approach. His use of materials varies between metal, wood, paper, cloth, and latex rubber.
Eyfells’ creative drive is to document the interaction between time, space and gravity. His work is based on the concepts of receptualism, a theory he developed to explain the essence of his art.
Eyfells is credited with inventing the word ‘Receptualism’ when discussing his work. Eyfells’ work deals with the process of materials. Minimal in nature, his art is non-objective and often conceptual in approach. His materials vary between metal, wood, paper, plastic and cloth. Eyfells’ objective is to document the interaction between time, space and gravity. Many of his sculptures appear to be lava or geological formations. In Central Florida he is known as the Grandfather of sculpture.
“Johann Eyfells takes sculpture back to its prehistoric nature, obviating the civilized idea of it as the engineering of space.”
— Donald Kuspit, Art Critic