Dayspring – unwinding
It is one thing to see a river for its immediate reality.
It is another thing to see the immediate along with the beyond that it takes us to:
To its silent descent into the stillness of the wells,
to the persisting assent to the heights of the trees,
to the courses the river makes to all bodies,
including my veins,
and finally to its source,
to the Waters beyond its infancy
and back again to all the forms
that the Waters have sculpted.
To the river
And to the body
That I am.
C. F. John
C F John's series of oils on canvas entitled ‘Still and Silent’ depicts a lone female figure against a neutral background. She is posed, inward looking, yet alert. Each canvas presents a unique, perfectly balanced posture in dialogue with a horizontal line. The latter marks a surface upon which ripples alluding to water are suspended in time. This line naturally slips into the gently curved, horizontal cross beam of an unusual ‘crucifix’. Viewed from directly above and behind, the same female figure appears to rest in suspension beyond gravity and time. In all the paintings, the linear planes and natural forms harmonize, arresting all tension. A complete calm reigns. The low-key palette suggests a dream yet the woman’s upright posture points to an alert mind.
John is adamant about his constraining views to the real limits of the body. He had worked with an American performance artist, suspending her from the roof of his balcony by trapeze-like constructions – moments of unusual physical calm and motion arrested on the canvas. “This is the balance of planes, of geometrical lines and shapes, as well as of the rational and emotional in human existence. Here, the emotions that are dynamic also meet with its stillness / silence. » (Saffronart) C F John’s smaller works are watercolors on hand-made, banana-leaf paper. He celebrates the uniqueness of materials as an integral part of his art. Again stillness in meditation or in prayer recounts the experience of silence in various faiths. One of the works on paper is an abstract ‘landscape’ celebrating the leaf motif of a Bodhi tree growing out of the side of an abandoned stone well on the Visar campus on the outskirts of Bangalore. (the ficus religiosa, native of India, is venerated as Shakyamuni attained Enlightenment under one) C F John also does site-specific installations often incorporating leaf and tree motifs. A short DVD diorama of his ‘Mandala’ construction at Visthar lets the gallery visitor experience the project. It guides the spectator into the structure, around the windows, down the black steps and on to an underground chamber where the roof rests just above ground level. There, suspended from the ceiling, chimes, bells and dream catchers announce the still point of a mirror deep within the alcove at the back. We arrive only to see ourselves reflected within the installation space and we come to understand our roots and feel at one with the earth.
C F John, considered by SaffronArt to be ‘one of southern India’s most promising artists’, comes from a farming family in the Catholic community of Thrissur, Kerala. Born in 1960, he first obtained a degree in Philosophy but then opted for an initiation into Art in the tradition of Gurukul studying under Jyothi Sahi at Silvepura in Bangalore. C F John has exhibited extensively in India and received a 3-year grant from India Foundation for the Arts for his installation project. His participation in group shows include exhibits in Singapore, Jakarta, and Dubai. He has had solo shows many cities in India, in Saarbrucken Germany and at The Noble Sage Art Gallery, London. John is an ardent nature lover and social activist. His delicate compositions reflect negotiation and balancing as a metaphor for human relations, connecting one another and with the earth. It is through such that we experience and celebrate beauty, love, understanding and freedom. Resenting all institutionalization, he avoided formal art education. he believes that art is sometimes visionary and must honesty state the truth about war and politics. Yet, he insists his art is more about his own joy. His images do not recount a story; they show you well-being. His works propose various pathways according to the viewer’s preparedness. John feels that, “installations compel people to see the ordinary and once you learn to see things, a new world opens for you. You start seeing beauty, you start seeing meaning everywhere you go.” 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). 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.