It wasn’t difficult to spot the house among a row of houses, it stood out. Art seemed to ooze from every stately pore of the home of Bangalore based artist C.F. John. He has his roots wedged deep in ‘God’s own country’, but like a lot of us has chosen to make Bangalore his home. Art adorns every wall in his home, half finished canvases, paints strewn around, like they had been placed there in a deliberately artistic fashion.
He has often been mentioned in news papers and magazines sometimes for artistic reasons and sometimes for others. Like for instance during the Kargil war when he was asked to donate paintings for ‘Kargil relief fund’ he refused to donate unless he was guaranteed that proceeds will be shared with soldiers on both sides of the border. Not surprisingly his staunch stand drew flak but he stood his ground.
“One thing that always gets me thinking is how one can explore the scope of art beyond the conventional. This is in no way a disregard for conventional art. It is simply not to limit my art”, he promptly said. After dabbing in several art forms for over a decade, John moved into the evolving art scenario of installations back in 1993.
From the riots in Bangalore in 1994 to the old disused well in Visthar, the themes have been aplenty in an attempt to re-define certain parameters of art in the city, to revisit the linear conventionality and to reinvestigate options of how art objects and body can be placed and viewed. “I don’t approach my art formally. To me the need to connect is primal. When I was working with the victims of the riot, the relationships with people was important to me. Even if one person cannot relate to the work then I would consider my work a complete failure. True that we artists can get into a tangent of a different creative world but then again the need to be able to relate is necessary.”
He strongly believes art does not mean just paintings hung on walls for people to admire and criticize. “We should involve society in art.” He talks about his work with the fishermen on the sea shores of Trivandrum where he done a piece to save mangroves and to plant more trees, and today how the fishermen and the rich affluent work hand in hand to save the mangroves. “Till I got work with them, the fishermen and the neighboring people never spoke to each other” he exclaims.
Today John is taking a break from installations; he’s gone back to painting “I have not put brush to canvas in years and now I feel like painting.” he says as he leads me into a room with canvases that have been brought life by John’s deft hands. All his installations have been done in collaboration with Tripura Kashyap and Aziz TM. Now he thinks it’s time to take some time out.