Interpretations on stone

Sculptures

Interpretations on stone

The shapes of sculptures are set in stone, but the creation of mental space in which each person interprets them to suit his fancy is what completes an artist’s work.

So explained granite sculptor Zachariah John at his recently held exhibition, ‘Things Fall Apart’, the title an allusion to poet W B Yeats’s The Second Coming.

The self-taught artist, based in Kerala, moved to sculpting granite after a fallout with painting. But how could an artistic medium so colourful become pale compared to the somewhat mono-coloured granite? “It’s a personal issue.

 There is always a drive to perfection in an artist and with that comes creative block. I would get started and something would stop me while painting. So, I chose stone. With stone, I can find my way clearly. When I reach the end of work, there is satisfaction. Even though the goal is not achieved, at least I know I have come close to it. And when I move on to the next project, I can address the previous mistakes,” he maintains.

Yes, John does miss colours, and to bring them to sculptures, he has considered gemstones, marble, cobblestone, sandstone, limestone, “although they are difficult to come by.” Kerala has limited granite kind (black) and Karnataka has a bit more variety to offer, he states.

At his open-air studio under a tree near his Kochi home, he “whacks away at a boulder until something comes out of it.” And, “he would rather impose his idea on a crude boulder than to begin with a set template, which is just a creative process, you know, not ego.”

Among the sculptures displayed, there is one of a girl with thin arms and legs, which is his way of bringing the playing girl in William Carlos Williams’ poem Philomena Andronico alive. But chiselling slim limbs is not what every artist tries with granite. Because the metaphor ‘as hard as granite’ is changeable to ‘as fragile as glass’ while sculpting.

 “You can’t afford mistakes... it’s an unforgiving medium. One incorrect hit and the model breaks into a million pieces. Hence, one begins with wood and other softer stones,” adds the artiste.

John confesses to be “somewhat of a recluse”, having once made a living off shrimp farming near Karwar for six years in the 70s. He could guess time by watching tides and spotted one person a month. “Living like that made me close to nature.” And also got him bored of the business. “I have nothing against money, I am trying to sell these damned things (his sculptures)...

But any art is a contribution to society, it lets people to ideate and introspect. Others’ interpretations of my art completes my work. They are true to the person who has viewed it. Every one of the interpretation. This activity would have opened my eyes to my work anew,” he adds.

John endeavours to explore and combine textures of granite for his next projects. He says there is a way to appreciate granite sculptures better... under spot lights, where the grains and patterns give out a spectacular shimmering display. Nothing dull about the stone, you know.

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