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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Reykjavik International Film Festival (RIFF 2017) and Werner Herzog.

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On October 1, 2017, our film was screened for the very first time in Europe at RIFF 2017 (Reykjavik International Film Festival) at the Háskólabió in the city of Reykjavik, Iceland.(https://riff.is/)

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I was wonderful how well we were received by the family and friends who are connected with Jóhann Eyfells’ life and work. The film’s screening was a huge success!

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It all began 2 days before, when I arrived into the city from the airport, immediately conducting an interview with RÚV, the Icelandic TV Network interviewing me and my friend Joe Bravo about our film. (http://www.ruv.is/sarpurinn/klippa/a-force-in-nature). It was a follow up interview prior to the screening, and after a preliminary story that came out earlier this year (http://www.ruv.is/frett/tokumenn-fylgdu-johanni-eyfells-i-naerri-aratug)

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Then it was followed by an exclusive invitation by the German Consulate to an evening reception dedicated to Werner Herzog, which I attended with reserved delight.

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My friend Joe Bravo, art critic and curator, and I met the man himself in the flesh and beating heart as well as his lovely wife and accomplished photographer, Lena Herzog (https://www.lenaherzog.com/). It turned out to be an amazing and delightful evening sharing insights.

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The following day we were also invited to a special luncheon organized by RIFF to celebrate Werner and his incredible work and 60+ films. It so happens that both Werner and Lena sat with us at a small table, and we were able to connect more deeply over fish and chips and local beer.

Afterwards Werner conducted a Master Class at the University showing clips from one of his numerous films, Into the Abyss (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Into_the_Abyss_(film)), which was shortly followed by a full screening of his widely acclaimed film Grizzly Man (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grizzly_Man).

That same evening I attended a formal goodbye dinner for Werner and Lena because they had to leave the following day, and once again I was at their table sitting with some of the most talented directors from the festival from around the globe, including Iran, Iceland, Sweden and Denmark, all the while thinking to myself that I have gone to “Film Heaven”. WOW! What a way to start a festival.

More to come…

 

See our Facebook Page for more details on future screenings: https://www.facebook.com/groups/128411080555698/

Here is an article in Icelandic that came out during the festival: http://www.ruv.is/frett/karlmennska-birnir-og-sjalfsihugun-a-riff

Here is a review about our film, our first formal one: http://www.thisisniceland.com/film-review-force-nature-johann-eyfells/

From York Underwood – Niceland – Oct. 1, 2017

Jóhann Eyfells is a sculptor born in Reykjavík, but has spent most of his working life in the United States. He works with huge, heavy pieces of stone, steel and wood. His theory of art is called receptualism and Johann is mostly concerned with the interaction of gravity, time and space. He has worked consistently and steadily for over six decades. His inspiration comes from his wife Kristrín Halldórsdóttir, a former model and dress designer at the time of their marriage, who was also a popular and respected sculptor and painter. She died in 2002.

A Force In Nature: Jóhann Eyfells is the first time I’ve seen a documentary attempt so many discussions, touch on several ideas, only to reveal what it had already shown in the first few minutes. One man, waking up every day, and moving rocks–and steel and wood and any other material he decided to use. Jóhann questions his own identity, laments the loss of his wife, reveals his hopes to contribute to the world and worries about his legacy. The effect is misdirection. We hope, worry, question and lament, as an audience, right alongside the subject of the film, but the real hero of the film is Jóhann’s hands.

You watch a ninety-year-old man move, chain, bolt and hoist huge pieces of concrete and rusty steel. Even with his slight frame, and obvious age, you see strength and courage in his actions, but more acutely, in his hands, the instruments of his trade. His life is filled with the stories we all share. The difference between you and him–in most of us–is purpose. He finds meaning and purpose in the work and process of his art–even if his art requires him to wake up every morning and move a big fucking rock.

The Myth Of Sisyphus has been adapted before. We’ve seen Bill Murray live the lesson of sisyphus in Groundhog Dayliving the same day over and over again–discovering what makes life worth living. We’ve also seen it literally in The Simpsons, a chained Homer dragging a rock up a hill (Remove the Stone Of Shame! Attach the Stone Of Triumph!). In our culture, the myth of sisyphus has been boiled down to parable, to reference, and distilled further to the triteness of a bumper sticker: It’s the journey, not the destination, that matters…dude. It’s only when you watch this film that you see a life that mimics art, where myth becomes lived reality.

I don’t know if the film will launch Jóhann into the international fame and recognition his friends, family and, well, himself, thinks he deserves. You will, however, leave the film…moved. It’s a portrait of a man with purpose and it challenges you to hold yourself up to a similar standard. It’s hard to bury your head in your hands when you imagine the daily beaten his 94-year-old hands take everyday.

My guess is the film will inspire you to do one of two things:

1. You’ll want to know more about and see more of Jóhann’s Art.

2. You’ll want to do your work more seriously and passionately.

With any luck, it’ll be both.

“I can’t imagine a more successful combination of two unlikely existences.”–Jóhann Eyfells

By York Underwood – Niceland – October 1, 2017

 

 

Some of the Icelandic views during our filming of A Force in Nature.

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

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”

JEyfells

The people of Iceland

Páll of Húsafelli - artist and musician

Páll of Húsafelli – artist and musician

Here’s  a link to Páll Gudmundsson’s site: http://www.pallg.is/Default.asp?Sid_Id=320&tId=1&Tre_Rod=&qs