Publication: The Tribune LIFE STYLE
By Nonika Singh
Acclaimed sculptor John Ruppert thinks students of today’s digital generation have no time to stop and stare before the creative process begins
In Chandigarh for the four-day International Art Conclave organised by the Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi, this might be acclaimed John Ruppert’s first trip to India. But the renowned sculptor from the US has not only already noticed the vitality on Indian roads and how people move on it a maze-like fashion as also how if you don’t pay attention you could be gone in a jiffy.
Of course, post this conclave which he hails as ‘a wonderful opportunity to know artists from different parts of the world’, he will be off to Rajasthan. For landscapes in general and desert landscapes in particular interest him greatly. So does photography which by the way he calls ‘art on the run’ and which began as a means to document his own large sculptural works.
Primarily a sculptor, in his sculptures John explores nature, rather natural order vs human order. Thus more recently catastrophic events such as tusnami figure in his creations. As a human being but naturally he empathises with humans but being an artist also has an empathy with nature whose beauty he feels we have forgotten to observe.
Teaching at University of Maryland College Park since 1987, the most pertinent observation he makes about students of today’s generation is that they have no time to stop and stare, to pause and ponder. Blame the virtual world for the current impasse but reflection he avers is the most important element in an artist’s evolution. As a child living in Jordan he grew up admiring ruins and the relationship between ruins and the indigenous materials. Today as he creates art out of industrial material you might see a contradiction in natural forms and the medium, but he never lends a finish to his creations. And those who buy his works are aware that these are subject to oxidation and other forces of natural decay. As many of his art works dot public spaces we wonder whether creating public art limits creativity? He says, “Limitation leads to innovation. If you are presented a problem, only then will you find an answer.”
The approach to public art anyway, he shares, has changed enormously. And today there is a ‘sense of place’ while creating such works in which artist, architect and designer come together. Where he lives in Baltimore, there is huge appreciation for art what with definition of art having broadened to encompass collaborations, community art projects and much more. Of course with information only a click away art has also acquired a global hue and colour that looks the same. But artists he proffers must be true to their colour (Indian artists can read it as cultural roots). No wonder his works, be it sculpture or photographs, are propelled by one vision. And not surprising his photographs put up like a door (10 feet by 4 feet) which you can walk into have a sculptural feel reminding the viewer in no uncertain words it’s a sculptor who has created them. He might profess ignorance of the Indian art scene but with his fingers on the pulse of the art world, there is much that Indian artist fraternity can learn from his art practice.