Adding this variation to the Descartean epithet, John points out the language of exclusion and hate that issues from the limitedness of loving one’s country, religion, sport…
John sees no dichotomy between his life and art, which flows from the earth and provides access to the symbolic and metaphysical. He would not like his art to be reduced to a marketable commodity, a finished product outside a contextual frame. Apart from works for galleries, John’s installations and art events make it difficult to draw the line between performance and presentation, art space and the ‘real’ world. In 1999, another artist Azis T M and John produced an installation on a Kerala beach while interacting with the fishing community there. In the final phase of the event, children of the community took mangrove saplings from their ‘earth works’ and planted them in another part of the shore. Many of these saplings are now trees that form a small mangrove forest – a natural and most effective protection against tidal waves, or even a tsunami.
While connecting the material and the metaphysical, John reinforces the unity of ethics, aesthetics and truth. This is captured in the tenet ‘Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram’ (the One, true, good… and beautiful). As an artist he sees the need to open one’s mindscape to larger realities. ‘One understands truth not just as an individual, but as connected with everything else.’This is evident in his themes and the material he uses.
Through his art, John brings larger concerns to the fore, and questions institutions of all kinds. This springs from the vision he has nurtured from his spiritual guide S Kappen, who says, ‘Art is a bestowing, an overflowing of primal truth… it overthrows our familiar view of reality and opens up new, hither-to unseen vistas. Art is also a grounding.
Of late he has taken to farming. He understands land, not through maps or as real estate. He attempts an imaginative perception of the earth through the trees and grass that grow from it. His recent works bring back memories of land, by exploring its infinite shades and textures. His materials include natural fibres, recycled paper, leaves, stones…. His ‘paintings’ don’t merely represent the earth. They demonstrate the earth itself.
John’s artwork is not easy. It is a continual challenge both to himself and the viewer. Like all else, he sees art as a fluid space which transcends ideologies, and is freed from ‘endless imitation’ of current thoughts in circulation. His deep faith in the earth and its ability to renew itself gives his art an edge that constantly defies definitions, categories and labels. In communion with the natural world, his art remains fresh and alive.
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